Both prophetic and original, Andy Warhol’s cinematic deconstruction of his most iconic superstar’s portrait remains one of the seminal, if not underappreciated, masterpieces of the 20th century. The work is presented as a double-screen installation where two projectors screen two 16mm film reels of Edie Sedgwick being interviewed next to a large television monitor playing a pre-recorded videotape of her in another interview. In many ways it’s an extension of Warhol’s famous 2D multi-image portraitures. Warhol offers us four Sedgwicks total, two captured on video and two captured on film. Outer and Inner Space represents not only one of the first examples of video art, but also one of the first works to effectively combine video and film formats.
Throughout the piece Warhol flattens the image so we see the face of Sedgwick’s “live” self, positioned in front of us, next to her “televised” self, sitting three-quarter profile facing left, so that both appear together to be the same size. This arrangement creates an effective visual illusion that would work seamlessly if it weren’t for the noticeable television flicker and occasional noise that temporarily distorts Sedgwick’s “televised” profile. Yet this evident difference between Sedgwicks is what makes Warhol’s piece so fascinating, as both are framed as opposites in conflict with one another. The “televised” Sedgwick, filmed with high quality Norelco video cameras, illuminates from the screen but rarely reveals any emotions; her image is that of a statuesque beauty. Compare that with the “live” Sedgwick, elegantly photographed on 16mm with distinct shadows cast on her face, showing as much character as possible when she speaks; moments of her laughing, making animated gestures and taking a drag from her cigarette help bring her to life in front of us. This visual juxtaposition plays perfectly into Warhol’s continuing artistic study on media and celebrity facades.
But while we do get to see Sedgwick at her most playful, it’s impossible not to take in consideration what would take place only six years after the completion of the piece; Sedgwick’s death at the age of 28. Much had been documented of the Sedgwick’s socialite status and deeply troubled past, dubbed affectionately as the “poor little rich girl,” to her eventually fallout with Warhol and subsequent troubles with drug abuse. This makes the ending of Outer and Inner Space all the more tragic. Watching Sedgwick continue her interview while the image of her “televised” self slowly deteriorates to static before finally disappearing all together, serves as a sad yet perfect illustration of what would be Sedgwick’s eventual downfall after her departure from the factory.