Thoughts on “Blow-Up” and “ From A to B and Back Again”

Brandon: Warhol’s “Aura”

-What is an “Aura?”

“I think ‘aura’is something that only somebody else can see, and they only see as much of it as they want to. It’s all in the other person’s eyes” (Warhol, From A to B and Back Again, 1975).

-Aura and Art

-An aura is a feeling

-“He’s lost in the world…All of a sudden, he was gone. The crown was there, the sword was there, but his head had disappeared. You feel his presence but you don’t see him. He’s been somehow reduced to symbols.” (George Condor, artist of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album covers).

Alex: Disconnect

  • Both authors experience a disconnect from the reality around them, seen in Andy Warhol’s experience of fame and Julio Cortazar’s slow realisation of his photograph’s significance — something is pushing them away from what’s real.
  • Warhol confronts this in his musings on fame — His celebrity status has allowed him to spread his voice across the world, but his words are cherry picked by editors to reflect what they want to communicate — the interviewer deciding your character before they’ve even met you. To the world at large, Warhol realises that his identity is constructed from articles and tv interviews — his celebrity status has removed his control over his own image.
  • Cortazar explores this disconnect between image and reality through the slow revelation of the picture’s true meaning — At first, he is delighted with what he has captured, obsessing over the details and constructing a romantic narrative between the woman and boy — it is only with intense scrutiny that he realises that his subjects are actually criminals intent on abducting the kid. By assigning a narrative of his own creation, he almost destroyed the truth of his image, a dark reality literally glossed over in a photograph.
  • This disconnect plays into the other writer’s we’ve seen, where the gulf between reality and the actual truth is laid bare; Eileen Myles’ reality versus the Kennedy image that defines An American Poem, the tragic exodus of a nation turned into a tourist gimmick in Ana Meneclez’s In Cuba I Was a German Shepard, or the disconnect between Castro’s image of the revolution versus it’s aggressively communist reality in Reinaldo Arenas’ Before Night Falls.
  • Yet it is this disconnect that drives the reader’s curiosity — The mystery of the picture drives the reader through Cortazar’s stream of consciousness, whilst the whole selling point of Warhol’s novel is so his fans can discover the ‘real’ artist beyond the headlines. So whilst this disconnect could be viewed as a negative, robbing the reality of a situation, it is also useful in generating new content and ideas — the freedom of creation versus the laws of reality? Perhaps it is this disconnect that allows us to operate as a society, willfully ignoring dire realities for more preferable constructions that allow us to continue with existing systems.

Leor: Warhol’s “Good performers”

What is a good performer?

If you ask 50 people what a “good performer” is, you will get 50 different answers.

“‘Good performers’, I think, are all-inclusive recorders, because they can mimic emotions as well as speech and looks and atmosphere” (Warhol, From A to B and Back Again, 1975).

Warhol makes an interesting point in saying the good performers are the amateur or “really bad” performers, because you can never really tell what they’ll do next. Professional performers almost always do the same exact thing at every show. If you go to every Justin Bieber or any top 40 pop artist show for a month, you’re going to relive the same exact concert for a month. But if you go to an underground artists’ show, you never know what to expect because the artist may cater to different crowds based on certain vibes.

This doesn’t mean that bad artists are great, professional artists and performers are great because they are always constantly evolving and learning but their actual performance may not be the best. I think what makes a good performer is the ability to stand in front of a crowd and just read them. Read their mood, vibes, what they want to hear/see and what they don’t. This is why I mentioned earlier that an artist like Justin Bieber who is a “professional performer” is performing, although he is a singer what he really practices every day is the dances and routine for the show which is where I believe the bad performers bring more variation. When I saw Kanye West and Jay Z live a few years back, I remember they were just doing whatever they wanted, played whatever songs and did whatever the crowd asked for. To me, that was an example of a good performance from a professional artist. But when I went to see Zedd in MSG and then at a different venue a few months later, I paid to see the SAME EXACT set song for song, minute for minute and as much as I enjoyed the music, I saw it as a failure in good performance from a professional artist.

Gaby: Photography in “Blow-Up”

The idea of photography is to capture a moment in a photo. The photo can convey emotions, it can tell a story, and sometimes it can show the truth. In the excerpt of “Blow-Up” by Julio Cortazar, the story follows a photographer, named Roberto Michel, that lives in France. One day, Roberto is out walking around and he takes a photo of a young boy and a woman in the street. He explains how the woman is hovering over the uncomfortable/timid boy and she is caressing him. Roberto conjures up a story about the pair, saying that they are lovers and he romanticizes the couple. When Roberto gets caught taking photos of the couple, the woman demands that he gives her the film saying it was an invasion of privacy, while the young boy runs away. He refuses and walks away. Days later when examining the photo of the couple, Roberto realizes that they were not a couple at all. The woman was a prostitute trying to lure the young boy to have sex with her. Roberto assumed he knew the whole story just by watching the pair for a while then snapping a picture of them. But only when he sat down and really looked at it, is when he saw the truth.

People are constantly trying to capture moments that weren’t meant for them. Roberto took a photo of someone else’s moment and he tried to make it his own by creating a fictional story behind it. When it comes to photos of other people, no one knows what exactly is happening in that moment besides the people in the photo. The idea of looking at a photo and making quick conclusions about what it means, is something that happens too often. We project our own opinions on photos and automatically assume we’re right. Roberto assumed he was seeing innocent love but in reality what he saw was scandal and fear. In today’s society, this type of perception is very common.Whether it’s someone posting a picture on instagram to make people believe that they are living a great life. Or it’s the media trying to make someone look bad and ruin their career in just one photo. Just because you perceive something one way doesn’t mean it’s the truth.

Natasha: Voyeurism (Andy Warhol)

“But fame isn’t all that important —

A good reason to be famous, though, is so you can read all the big magazines and know everybody in all the stories. Page after page it’s just all people you’ve met. I love that kind of reading experience and that’s the best reason to be famous.” (Andy Warhol, From A to B and Back Again 1975)

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, voyeurism is defined by “the practice of taking pleasure in observing something private, sordid, or scandalous.”

It’s evident that Andy Warhol found it amusing to read articles on people that he knew because like many people, especially in today’s society we crave gossip about how people we know are doing, what they are doing, and who they are doing it with. Warhol was definitely a voyeur himself because he credits the best part of being famous to having met all these other famous people and then being able to read about them. This idea is very relatable because I feel that everybody is a voyeur today. Even if we’re not staring outside our windows with binoculars like L.B Jefferies in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, it’s so easy to observe what everybody you know is up to because of social media. I’m sure everybody has found themselves deep on somebody’s instagram trying not to like an extremely old post; it might be of somebody you know or it can go as far to be of a friend’s cousin’s teacher’s neighbor. The power of social media and magazines provide us with a way to look into people’s lives and gain satisfaction from it which I thought was an interesting theme in Warhol’s excerpt.

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