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Army of one.

FOR ME, WITH WARHOL, IT WAS NEVER REALLY ABOUT paintings or films or other artworks. It was always about him, his hair, his look. And it was about the fact that you can't really divide his work by media or style: He had developed a system, or perhaps just an attitude--a wig, a costume, a mask--that hid as much as it revealed. Or maybe we should call it a system, since he managed to build a language in which every expression, sentence, and gesture seemed to fit and make sense. In the end, that's what we call style: the ability to lay your hands on things and make them your own. Whether Warhol was making paintings, films, posters, or Polaroids, he was making Warhols. You knew that every time he did anything he was adding a new brick to his world.


I don't even remember where I first saw his work: Warhol is so much everywhere that you can't really say when you first encountered him. Before you ever see a real Warhol you've most likely already experienced his attitude somewhere else--in a commercial, on TV, or anywhere, really. I like his work's pervasiveness a lot. He's reached a state where it's not so much that you wake up and think of Warhol; he's obviously a reference, but in pretty much the same way that the Eiffel Tower and the Empire State Building are references. They're there, you know them, you look at them once in a while to orient yourself if you're lost, but you don't really think about them; they've sunk so deeply inside you that you can forget about them. We live in a Warhol world as much as we live in the city of the Empire State Building. He's something we can't avoid but also something we don't need to think about. That's probably the greatest thing about Warhol: the way he penetrated and summarized our world, to the point that distinguishing between him and our everyday life is basically impossible, and in any case useless.

Warhol wasn't trying to say what was right and what was wrong. I like that about him, because my own work is basically a struggle to avoid a fixed position. I will never say either that business is good or that it kills art. I will never say that art is good and money is evil; I will never claim that the two things are either related or in direct opposition. It's not my job to come up with some grand solution; my work is more a question of navigating different possible worlds and trying to enjoy the trip, or at least to learn something from it. I like frictions and contradictions, which are all I see around me. That's why I don't like the word "critique" and why the Picasso project I did at the Museum of Modern Art looks as much like a marketing campaign as it does a comment on the Disneyfication of museums. Maybe Warhol's most important legacy is that sense of distance from everything. It wasn't a form of cynicism but an ultimate act of sincerity: His detachment was a way to embrace complexity.

I read this expression somewhere: "the sex appeal of the inorganic." I think that's what Warhol is all about, and what our life is all about. I can't open a magazine or a newspaper without feeling a sense of iciness, a sense of distance. Everything seems frozen. We're surrounded by images that we can't penetrate and that don't demand much from us. Warhol has that sense of cold surface, that detachment. Maybe it's the ultimate form of passive aggression. To become completely empty and distant is to turn into a perfect mirror, and that's what I see when I look at Warhol or his work: a reflection. A mirror is neither sincere nor objective, but it's still the only instrument we have with which to look at ourselves.

So much time has gone by, and things have changed so drastically, but I think we're still immersed in Warhol's world. Maybe he's simply the only metaphor we have to describe what we see, because no one else has achieved his level of penetration of everyday life. Warhol's work is not about a specific decade or style; it's about being contemporary, being now. And there's so much work, and there are so many different forms of expression--paintings, portraits, music, films, performances, studios, Polaroids, tapes--that you can always find something that's both pure Warhol and perfectly timed for your present moment.

The liberties and freedoms that Warhol left behind for younger artists are immense. We have to be careful about this, of course, because probably many things we give him credit for he did not invent--yet he managed to put his brand on them. He also allowed us the freedom of inconsistency. Or, better, he turned inconsistency into a method. You could say Picasso had already done that, but he was more about being eclectic; Warhol went in for schizophrenia, for multiple personalities. When I look at his work I see no single artist but an army of artists. Actually that might be his biggest contribution: showing us that art is not so much about a particular artist or signature.

Maybe for Warhol using stand-ins to imitate him at appearances had something to do with democracy, with the idea that anyone can be or become someone else. There's a song on Lou Reed and John Cale's Songs for Drella album, which is about Warhol, that says something like "Faces and names, if they were all the same, you wouldn't be jealous of me or me jealous of you." In Warhol's world there's this tendency toward equality; I think his obsession with photography and with machines like tape recorders was somehow related to a dream of standardized emotions and personalities. You can look at that as a pessimistic view of life in an industrial or postindustrial age, but you can also see it as the ultimate utopia: everyone being the same, equal and interchangeable. As to why I use stand-ins when I am invited to speak in public, the answer is simple: I always find other people more interesting than myself. Am I talking to you now, or is it someone else? The answer is inside you, and it's wrong.

--As told to Katy Siegel

Maurizio Cattelan, a New York-based artist, will be exhibiting this month in the Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, and in a solo show at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.

Katy Siegel is a contributing editor of Artforum.
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Title Annotation:MyWarhol
Author:Cattelan, Maurizio
Publication:Artforum International
Article Type:Critical Essay
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Previous Article:Cheers for fears.
Next Article:Dandy Warhol.

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