28 July 2010

Andy Warhol

I first began to appreciate Andy Warhol the moment I lost interest in his artwork. The man Andy was the thing to watch. He was the worthwhile object of all inquiry. The milieu he created was his canvas and all the art objects he produced were mere souveniers of a specific node in spacetime. If you didn't buy the t-shirt while you were there, don't bother looking for one now. What else should we think about a man who called his workshop The Factory? Could he have stated his intentions with any more clarity?

Yes, Andy's single important contribution to the world was himself. He generated the aura that Walter Benjamin worried art had lost forever in the age of mechanical reproduction. Andy spun magic scenester ju-ju so hard that he fooled people into thinking art production was actually a glamorous endeavor. Imagine! Soon people wanted to try this art thing themselves, but not because they adored the process of making it. Only because they adored themselves, and Andy, and the way it felt to participate without having to labor.

It's tempting to watch this and see nothing but a flippant hipster (a flipster!) disavowing any responsibility to indulge in polite conversation with an obtuse press; tempting because it's true, obviously. But it's also safe to take Andy at his word. His methods were easier ... he says exactly same thing about film a few years later: Film cameras are great, he argues, Because you just turn them on and walk away. After a short while, you've got a movie.

So while Andy traipses around carving himself out of ethereal clay, the work he sells to keep him afloat us is not a final product in the old sense, nor is he selling the sluggish thrill of "the process" to his admirers. No, he has perfected the intoxicating thrill of the "Have Done". Everyone knows this feeling. Everyone yearns for it at some point. "All writers want to have written" goes the old saying, and Andy offered an analogous experience to all in his orbit: simply by being around him, they had done things. Everyone was a filmmaker, everyone was a painter, everyone was in a band; everyone was everything around Andy Warhol. If he had written a novel, I'm sure he would have charged people for the privilage of looking over his shoulder as he scribbled ... or over the shoulder of whomever was writing it for him. It might even have sounded something like this:

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