A partial transcript of Episode 18 of THE ART MOVEMENT. To listen to the full radio show, CLICK HERE.
Yesterday, I found out that Brigid Berlin passed away at age 80. Her name is forever linked with Andy Warhol, but she was a very creative soul herself, whose own legacy has been re-evaluated over the years.
An article on Art News about her passing states that she was, for instance, an innovator in the use of Polaroid cameras within an artistic context. And I quote: “At the time, Polaroid photography was itself a novel invention and Berlin was determined to push the medium to its limits, creating self-portraits through the technique of double-exposure.”
However, as I mentioned, her name is forever linked with Andy Warhol, and by saying that, I do not mean to downplay her legacy at all. In fact, I believe that she was a central figure in the making of the cult of Andy Warhol, therefore in the making of one of the most famous artists of the 20th century as well as a major figure of the pop art movement. Here is why.
Berlin was part of Warhol’s superstars, which was a group of New York City personalities promoted by Warhol throughout the ’60s and the ’70s, who accompanied him at various social events and populated his famed Factory studio. These were colourful characters and fascinating misfits. Many of them were also drug addicts.
But Berlin also worked as a receptionist for factory and her diligent documentation of its day-to-day ongoings, her own form of art that involved Polaroids and tape recordings of conversations and more that we know so much about it to this day is a lot of the reason why Factory as well as Warhol himself are so celebrated and romanticised to this day.
Which brings me back to something I have already talked about in previous episodes of the art movement: documentation of the artist is just as important as the work of the artist. The artists we talk about the most are the artists we know the most about.
Warhol himself knew that and I’m not alone in saying that just as remarkable as he was as an artist, he was also remarkable in self-promotion. And I guess, that’s also why he knew well to trust Berlin, who was an artist herself, with the documentation of his activities and his world at large.
And I do feel like many artists downplay the role of documentation, even if it’s just for posterity. In a way, documentation and exposure is common sense.
It kind of brings to mind that philosophical thought experiment that raises questions regarding observation and perception. “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, if an artist makes a masterwork and nobody is there to document it, does it even exist?”