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outer and inner space (1965)

Outer and Inner Space is a 16mm film of Edie Sedgwick sitting in front of a television monitor on which is playing a prerecorded videotape of herself.  On the videotape, Edie is positioned on the left side of the frame, facing right; she is talking to an unseen person off-screen to our right. In the film, the "real" or "live" Edie Sedgwick is seated on the right side of the film frame, with her video image behind her, and she is talking to an unseen person off-screen to our left. The effect of this setup is that it sometimes creates the rather strange illusion that we are watching Edie in conversation with her own video image.

The film is two reels long, each reel is 1,200 feet or 33 minutes long, and the videotapes playing within the film are each 30 minutes long. The two film reels are projected side by side, with reel One on the left and reel Two on the right, and with sound on both reels. So what you see are four heads, alternating video/film, video/film,  and sometimes all four heads are talking at once.


Warhol was able to make this film in August 1965 when he was loaned some rather expensive video equipment by the Norelco Company. The summer of 1965 was the time when portable, affordable video equipment designed for the home market first became available to the general public; a number of different companies, including Sony and Matsushida, were developing their own home video recording systems and beginning to market them at prices ranging from $500 to $1000 each. The Norelco video equipment was a rather high-end system costing about $10'000, and it was loaned to Warhol as a kind of promotional gimmick. That is, Warhol was quite well-known as an underground filmmaker at the time, as well as an artist, and the idea was that Warhol would experiment with the new video medium, see what he could do with it, and then report on his experiences in a published interview and more or less give his endorsement to the new medium and specifically to Norelco’s product.

The Norelco equipment was delivered to Warhol's studio, the Factory, on July 30, 1965; in fact, the arrival of the video camera and the ensuing conversations about it between Warhol and his colleagues are some of the events documented in the early chapters of Warhol's tape-recorded novel, a novel. During the month that Warhol had this video access, he shot approximately 11 half-hour tapes (at least, that's how many Norelco videotapes have been found in the Warhol Video Collection). One of the interesting things about Outer and Inner Space is that it contains, in effect, the only retrievable footage from these 1965 videotapes. The Norelco system utilized an unusual video format, called "slant scan video", which differed from the helical scan format developed by Sony and other video companies, and which very quickly became obsolete. There are now no working slant scan tape players anywhere in the world, the other videotapes which Warhol shot in 1965 cannot be played back, and the only accessible footage from these early videos exists in this film, which Warhol, in effect, preserved by reshooting them in 16mm.

Outer and Inner Space is Warhol's first double-screen film, and in this sense it is an important transitional work, since the double-screen format was very important in his later cinema – for example in The Chelsea Girls (1966), which is probably his best known film. It seems to me that Warhol’s use of video in the making of this film led him directly to the idea of double-screen film projection, that the double-screen format was a logical outgrowth of his access to video. In the interview which was published in Tape Recording magazine, Warhol talked about what he particularly liked about video:

Question:  Have you recorded from a television set with the video recorder?

Warhol:  Yes. This is so great. We've done it both direct and from the screen. Even the pictures from the screen are terrific. Someone put his arm in front of the screen to change channels while we were taping and the effect was very dimensional. We found you can position someone in front of a TV set and have it going while you're recording. If you have close-ups in the TV screen, you can cut back and forth and get great effects.


Nam June Paik's first videotape was shot with portable Sony equipment on October 4, 1965 and exhibited the same day at the Café-au-Go-Go, in an exhibition called "Electronic Video Recorder". Outer and Inner Space predates that moment, since it was shot in August, and in the film you see Warhol deliberately experimenting with some of the techniques specific to the video medium which other artists would explore more fully only in the 1970's. They are playing with the electronic breakdown of the video image while the tape is playing, they distort the scanning of the image, they manipulate the vertical roll on the TV set so the image goes flipping by very quickly, they pause the tape so the image freezes on the TV, and they even turn off the tape at the end so you get a little bit of a broadcast tv image. A number of video artists like Paik, Al Robbins, and Joan Jonas explored these specific electronic aspects of the video medium in later works in the seventies - like Jonas's tape Vertical Roll from 1972 - but this film was made seven years before that.


Outer and Inner Space was restored by The Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1998 and premiered as an installation at the Whitney Museum of American Art in the same year. Outer and Inner Space was first exhibited by Warhol at the Filmmakers Cinematheque in New York City in January 1966, and was screened on only a few other occasions in the 1960s; by the time of the premiere of the restored film at the Whitney, Outer and Inner Space had not been seen in over 30 years.

- Callie Angell: Doubling the Screen: Andy Warhol's Outer and Inner Space

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