<center>Handy Dandy</center>

Handy Dandy

Many who hung around Warhol’s studio, the Factory, were cultural space-debris, drifting fragments from a variety of 60's subcultures: transvestites, addicts, rockers, poor rich kids, criminals, street-hood rats, and their permutations. It was a dark garden of personalities and stories that religiously orbited around Andy, the unmoved mover.

His only subject was detachment, a
lthough real talent was thin and scattered in this tiny universe, it surfaced in music, with figures like Lou Reed and John Cale. Various 70's punk groups, and many of today's darlings were and are wittingly or not, the offspring of Warhol’s Velvet Underground, more popular today than they were at the time.

But most of the cast of characters, groupies and curiosity seekers who filled the Factory, left almost nothing of interest behind.

It's nice to feel special, Warhol called them all Superstars. If they actually possessed talent, discipline, or stamina, they would not have needed Andy. But then, he would not have needed them either. They gave Andy his ghostly aura of power while he offered them absolution, the gaze of the blank mirror that refuses all judgment. When he made his films, the camera deified him, as he collected hour upon hour of tantrums, misery, sexual spasms, and nose-picking trivia. For most audiences,

Warhol’s films were usually boring and alienating. To others, it was cutting edge art. 
In this way, the Factory resembled a cult sect. Warhol became the Pontiff and the instrument of this change, inspired by the examples of Dali and writer Truman Capote, Andy went after publicity with the single-mindedness of a shark feeding frenzy.

To be one’s own PR outfit before then was nearly unthinkable. This may be one of many reasons NYC artists felt contempt for Salvador Dali. But in the 60's, the art world began to turn into the Art Business. The press and television were in the process of reshuffling and re-stacking the social deck, aided by social engineers, the media was used to construct a parallel universe in which critical thinking was replaced by the new tyranny of the interesting. Its rules had to do with the rapid shift of style and image, and selling the assumption that all civilized life was discontinuous, and worth only a short attention span.

According to this new scripture, to enter, all you had to do was be born. But to remain famous, and stay drenched in the glittering spray of promotional culture, you needed other qualities.
Diligent and frigid, Warhol had both to a striking degree. He was a man mastered by a particular vision and anxious to impose it on the world. Warhol wished to be of culture, and culture only, but he was the only one at the time who embodied a culture of promotion as such. He had enjoyed success as a commercial artist, doing everything from shoe ads to recipe illustrations. He understood the tough art world. He was not yet an aristocracy, but knew packaging, and mass produced his art in limitednumber runs. And it worked.

The aristocracy was hungry for approval and Warhol selfies, too.

The workingclass kid who had spent thousands of hours gazing into the hypnotic glare of the TV screen, realized that the mid-60's cultural moment favored a walking void. Television was producing a void culture, and Warhol succeeded in becoming one of its heroes. It was no longer necessary for an artist to act crazy. Other people could act crazy for you, and that was what Warhol’s Factory was all about.

By the end of the 70's, half of America seemed to be immersed in some tedious and noisy form of self-expression. Craziness no longer suggested uniqueness. Warhol’s bland, ice cube translucency was much more intriguing as his works and legend live on.

Published: In Print Issue Nº 06—2018
Words: Major Tom Alexopoulos, Thinkbabymusic Collective
Photography © Timothy Hursley