The Best Way to Celebrate Andy Warhol’s Birthday? Watch His Grave.

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 6 2013 5:12 PM

The Best Way to Celebrate Andy Warhol’s Birthday? Watch His Grave.

NC_RR_20100826_ Warhol_grave_0002
Andy Warhol's tombstone.

Courtesy of the Andy Warhol Museum

Andy Warhol, had he not died in 1987 due to complications from gallbladder surgery, might have lived to see his 85th birthday today. While many cultural institutions are celebrating the anniversary by posting favorites from Warhol’s extensive body of work, the Andy Warhol Museum took a different—and more thematically appropriate—tack: In partnership with EarthCam, they’re live streaming a shot of Warhol’s gravesite in Pittsburgh

According to the museum, the point of the project (called “Figment” after Warhol’s unheeded desire to have the word printed on his tombstone) is to offer fans a way to visit the site virtually if they can’t make the pilgrimage in person. But after watching the feed for a while—art students mulling around, tacky balloons twirling in the breeze—it’s clear that “Figment” also has a certain pleasing resonance with Warhol’s aesthetic vision, especially as expressed in his film pieces. As the critic Jillian Steinhauer observed on the occasion of a MoMA exhibition in 2011, Warhol’s films often insist on paying attention to minutiae over long stretches of time:


"The truth is that some of the movies … are boring. But that may be the point. Warhol wickedly stretched time by recording many of them at the standard speed for sound film (24 frames per second) and then playing them back at the speed of silent film (16 frames per second). This means that viewers must devote more time to watching them than Warhol himself did to making them. 'Andy … had the patience never to be bored; or else he’d learned to plumb boredom’s erotics,' writes critic Wayne Koestenbaum in a 2001 critical biography. 'Warhol’s ability to enjoy boredom is a secular artistic translation of saintly patience, of stoicism—the willingness to wait for the Messiah.'"

Whether you spend 30 seconds or many hours watching Warhol’s grave on the feed, remember Koestenbaum’s point: For Warhol, the sublime was always hiding in the boring and the mundane, revealing itself only to those who take the time to look. Give it a try with “Figment.” I can’t think of a more fitting tribute.

J. Bryan Lowder is a Slate assistant editor. He writes and edits for Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section, and for the culture section.



Don’t Worry, Obama Isn’t Sending U.S. Troops to Fight ISIS

But the next president might. 

IOS 8 Comes Out Today. Do Not Put It on Your iPhone 4S.

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

How Much Should You Loathe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell?

Here are the facts.

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows


The Human Need to Find Connections in Everything

It’s the source of creativity and delusions. It can harm us more than it helps us.


More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

The Ungodly Horror of Having a Bug Crawl Into Your Ear and Scratch Away at Your Eardrum

We Could Fix Climate Change for Free. Now There’s Just One Thing Holding Us Back.

  News & Politics
Sept. 17 2014 7:03 PM Once Again, a Climate Policy Hearing Descends Into Absurdity
Business Insider
Sept. 17 2014 1:36 PM Nate Silver Versus Princeton Professor: Who Has the Right Models?
Sept. 17 2014 6:53 PM LGBTQ Luminaries Honored With MacArthur “Genius” Fellowships
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 17 2014 6:14 PM Today in Gender Gaps: Biking
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 17 2014 9:37 AM Is Slate Too Liberal?  A members-only open thread.
Brow Beat
Sept. 17 2014 5:56 PM Watch Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Bill Hicks, Mitch Hedberg, and More on New YouTube Channel
Future Tense
Sept. 17 2014 7:23 PM MIT Researchers Are Using Smartphones to Interact With Other Screens
  Health & Science
Sept. 17 2014 4:49 PM Schooling the Supreme Court on Rap Music Is it art or a true threat of violence?
Sports Nut
Sept. 17 2014 3:51 PM NFL Jerk Watch: Roger Goodell How much should you loathe the pro football commissioner?