Thursday, August 6, 2015

Live Video Streaming from Andy Warhol's Grave

Andy Warhol has a hard time staying dead. In fact, it has been almost thirty years since he passed on (in 1987) to that great celeb party in the sky. Warhol is even more popular now than he was when he walked the earth with his tape recorder and Polaroid camera. These days, he is certainly more widely known and appreciated. His art is fabulous, of course, but it his IDEAS that continue to inspire. Such is the case with the “Figment” project.

I assume some cemeteries have video surveillance for security reasons. St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in the Bethel Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh’s south hills has it for another reason – to create art. And if you visit, you can easily get your fifteen minutes of fame, as Warhol once quipped about the future.

Two years ago today, on August 6, 2013 (in honor of Andy’s birthday), The Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in conjunction with EarthCam, “launched a collaborative project titled Figment, a live feed of Warhol’s gravesite. This live feed, viewable 24 hours a day, seven days a week worldwide is available … “ at this link.

“I never understood why when you died, you didn’t just vanish, and everything could just keep going on the way it was only you just wouldn’t be there. I always thought I’d like my own tombstone to be blank. No epitaph and no name. Well, actually, I’d like it to say 'figment.'” -  Andy Warhol (
Rubbing of Andy Warhol's headstone
Andy’s headstone is in fact not blank, as you can see in these photographs I made in the cemetery during my visit on July 22, 2015. And speaking of the inscription – and this is kind of a bizarre coincidence – I purchased a framed rubbing of his headstone engraving at a thrift shop a few years ago. I knew it was authentic, as I had visited Warhol’s grave site back in 2000, and recognized the design.

St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery is in a blue collar neighborhood, a smallish cemetery on a pronounced hillside. The headstones are plain, the statuary meager. I could not remember where Warhol’s grave was, since it been many years since my last visit. On driving up the hill past the gatehouse and the BVM adorned with a spray of fresh flowers, I instantly saw the utility pole with two video cameras mounted to it. Ah, simply follow the line of sight and I should find the grave. There is was, Campbell’s Tomato Soup cans and all, about a hundred feet from the pole.

Webcams trained on Andy Warhol's grave
There are two video cameras (it seems from the live Internet link) so one can provide the long view of the grave site and the other a zoomed-in view. You may notice the “Warhola” family grave marker behind Andy’s in the photo below. His parents Andrew and Julia are buried there behind him; Warhola was Andy’s real last name (he dropped the final “a”). Besides live video, an interesting thing about the EarthCam website is that periodically, webcam still images are posted in the archive for everyone’s enjoyment! These are labeled with time and date.

I checked the time I was there a few days after my visit on July 22, 2015 (2 pm), to see if there were any images of me in the archive hanging a found rosary around the Coca-Cola bottle at the top of Andy’s headstone. (You can see the rosary in the top photo; Andy was quite religious, believe it or not!) 

Alas, my visit apparently was not as noteworthy as some others, for I am not archived in the EarthCam Hall of Fame. We do see recent images of, for instance, a bunny visiting the gravesite, as well as an Elvis impersonator. I can see how Elvis could easily have been chosen over me, but … a rabbit?  I did notice in scenes after my visit that someone moved my rosary from the Coke bottle to one of the Campbell’s soup cans – maybe it was the Elvis impersonator. I like to think that I helped create new Pop Art.

There is also a plastic file folder in front of Warhol’s headstone in which you can “write a note to Andy.” This is part of artist Madelyn Roehrig’s ongoing art project “Figments: Conversations with Andy.” Roehrig publishes them on the Facebook site “Conversations With Andy.” I would highly recommend checking this page a few times on Andy’s birthday – August 6 – to see what sort of craziness Andy’s fans may be up to. The EarthCam site should also be vibrant with ceremony. You can view the live feed here:

 Clink link for EarthCam Live Feed: "The Warhol Cams"

“I met Andy at a dinner and we discussed the culture of fame and television. I believe he would have been intrigued with using a live webcam to make art,” said Brian Cury, CEO and Founder of EarthCam. -
So if you are interested in your own your fifteen minutes of fame, consider a visit to Warhol's grave in St. John the Baptist Byzantine Catholic Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania's Bethel Park neighborhood.

References and Further Reading: