Warhol's quixotic enterprise, his impossible dream of becoming a machine, was ultimately doomed to (unmechanical) failure. He was sold short by his poor animal body: by going bald (he hid it under a big logo of a wig), getting shot (by a woman), and succumbing to a small, unnecessary death that was absurdly anticlimactic (going out like a lamb). And despite his efforts to disappear the human, his work couldn't really be produced in his absence--other people's touch (however light) would find its way in and flub up his aesthetic.
In his quest to construct an ever-expanding, self-perpetuating assembly line, Warhol perused all conduits through which he might pump out images and information. In this, he became part of a larger machine--namely, the media machine--as a filter or screen through which notables, newsworthies, and wouldliketobes pass. He wasn't a member of the media gauntlet, as we have come to know it, because he wasn't hunting for a trophy, and he didn't seem interested in dragging the reluctant into the limelight. (He enjoyed exposing those who enjoyed being exposed.)
Editing (of behavior or material) wasn't Warhol's bailiwick. He kept his lens open and the microphone on. I relate to some post-Warholian artists, like Dara Birnbaum (her Wonder Woman work) or Gilbert & George, who zoomed out more than Warhol did--to include the spectator or media source in the frame, directing attention to the machinery that created an image rather than to the image itself.
Warhol's machine impersonation was not fated to last. He was the Tin Man in reverse. He didn't want a heart, much less his rotten gall bladder. I was shocked when I heard that he'd died. Unawares, I had internalized the myth he'd fostered that he was a thing, not a person. His death was a surreal reminder that he'd actually been alive.
Cady Noland is an artist who lives and works in New York.
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|Article Type:||Critical Essay|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2004|
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