Sunday, February 28, 2010

Shame/-less: Notes On a Queer Warholian Spectacle

This paper comes from lived-experiences that enable the enactment of an embodied, subjective writing that often plays out via anecdotes and gossip, which is a re-performance of a Warholian enactment of, what I call, “the arts of chatter.”[i] Thus, this paper is at odds with modernist art history’s traditions, mentalities, and methodologies.[ii] I will largely focus on the affect shame, and how it can be tied to shameless and queerness, in relation to the “author-function queer Warhol,”[iii] whom I deploy to surface and explore his shamefully-shameless artworks—including himself—that have been elided, and what I call “queer Warholian spectacles.”[iv] I focus on shame as it intertwines with queer, which is often the case, because one can learn and do much with this affect and mode of performance, which normative Euro-American culture would rather eradicate.[v] I will demonstrate how this affect can be (and has been) “queered”—so, twisted and turned into an array of endless artful enactments—which is similar to the re-deployment of the term (and action) queer as an “experimental linguistic, epistemological, representational, political,” and artistic performance.[vi] Indeed, if, as Simon Watney has stated, “Warhol is second to none in the pantheon of twentieth-century American queer heros”[vii]—then he is also second to none of a shame-based hero who was shameless in his queerness. In the end, I hope to have shown how the intertwinement of shame to shameless—after all they are a suffix apart—as well as to queer(ness), foregrounds the shamelessly queer productions and performances of Warhol, as well as what can be learned by looking otherwise and feeling differently.[viii]

An anecdote: I first “met” Andy Warhol when my high school art teacher screened a video about the artist.[ix] Midway through the video, Warhol’s underground films were being discussed, and a segment of Warhol’s Chelsea Girls (1966) was shown: it was the notorious Ondine scene.[x] This segment shows Ondine, one of Warhol’s early “superstars,” performing himself as the “Pope of Greenwich Village.”[xi] He is shameless, self-righteous, and “swish,”[xii] as well as an amphetamine using and Coca-Cola drinking mediator to God, who states, “Approach the crucifix, lift his loin cloth, and go about your business!”[xiii] In this scene—becoming awry that is one of many ways for a queer Warholian spectacle to transpire—Ondine turns to a woman (Rona Page), who is sitting on his “sacred couch,” so that she may confess.[xiv] But, she is reluctant; Ondine quickly begins to get agitated. He starts to attack her—with a linguistic, acrobatic tirade and a bitchy, swishy, embodied flair; Ondine begins to slap her and pull her hair; she fights back, but this makes Ondine act-out more violently. When my art teacher quickly ran to the front of the classroom to turn off the documentary, I remember feeling several emotions: the most poignant ones being excitement and shame. During the scene, and even after its censorship, I was blushing because there was something, at that time, I did not know that I knew. Now I know what I did not know that I knew: when my art teacher turned off the video, when the screen went blank, a lot more was turned off—a lot more was blanked-out: a queer subject, who was excited about perverse, queer scenes and acts but simultaneously shamed of exactly that which I was excited.[xv] I was under erasure, blanked—yet without fully realizing the ramifications and the reasons—as well as the outright censorship around aspects of Warhol’s oeuvre that enacted a violent reification of the Warhol that modernist art history needs for its story and its conception of artistic subjectivity worthy of canonization.[xvi]

In telling this anecdote, I am at the same time searching for the way anecdotes intertwine with the theoretical and the socio-political, as Jane Gallop has argued.[xvii] Hence, my anecdote resonates with what queer theorist Eve Sedgwick has claimed: “this society wants its [queer] children to know nothing; wants its queer children to conform or (and this is not a figure of speech) die.”[xviii] In a sense, (and this is also not a figure of speech) in “turning off” scenes of queer sexualities and/or enactments—which points out that queer(ness) is not only about sexuality—one also aggressively elides, or worse erases, them. And, it should be clearly stated, queer is not isomorphic with “gay” or “lesbian,” or any other “fixed” identity; rather, queerness un-does all identities into an endless multiplicity and (un-)becoming: queer(nees) is a liquefaction of any solidification. Following Sedgwick, queerness highlights the “open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning when the constituent elements of anyone's gender, of anyone's sexuality aren't made (or can't be made) to signify monolithically.”[xix] Again Sedgwick: “‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’ still present themselves … as objective, empirical categories governed by empirical rules of evidence”—but “‘[q]ueer’ seems to hinge much more radically and explicitly on a person’s undertaking particular, performative acts of experimental self-perception and filiation.”[xx] And this resonates with queer theorist Lee Edelman: “queerness could never constitute an authentic or substantive identity.”[xxi] Furthermore, queer moves and infects those around it; as if it is a virus waiting to be activated.[xxii] With this thinking of queer it becomes apparent that it is disruptive, un-becoming, and un-doing, which, interestingly, is what shame does to the subject, as well those in proximity to the shamed subject.[xxiii] Also, queer(ness) is a rather shameless movement—perhaps enacted in a state of shame, yet in spit of it—in the face of the normative that is intent on shaming radical otherness; hence, queerness, part of its movement, blatantly usurps shame from the normative, and then it shamelessly re-deploys it otherwise. However, we should recall Judith Butler’s comments and critical concerns and theorizations on queer.[xxiv] In brief, queer—once (and in many places it still is) a negative, derogatory, violent term—has been (supposedly) “‘refunctioned’ … to signify a new and affirmative set of meanings.”[xxv] But, queer (as too shame) can never (fully) be extracted or erased from the homophobic (or disciplining) chorus who chats, “Queer!” (or “Shame!”) on the subject. But nevertheless, queer and shame can be critically (even if only strategically and temporarily, and only for some subjects) re-deployed performatively. Indeed, the performativity of both queer and shame can be reiterated differently; the subject can “disidentify” from such interpolations and re-deploy the abjecting and/or disciplining of the terms in unforeseen ways, which Warhol did.[xxvi]

Returning to my anecdote: With the censorship of Warhol (and me), unbeknownst to the likes of my art teacher, I was all the more desirously turned toward Warhol and Warholian spectacles. Thus, after school that day I went directly to the public library to check out every book by and/or about Warhol. I recall being filled with a tremendous amount of excitement. I had to find out more about this artist, his art and films, and all the people that surrounded him. By walking over to the card stacks and looking up “Warhol, Andy”—I was avowing that which was disavowed in my art class (as well as in my school, family, and the State). I wanted to “turn on” what had been “turned off,” to make “visible” what had been made “invisible.”

The first book that I pulled off of the shelf was Warhol’s “autobiography” (it was written with Pat Hackett), Popism: The Warhol Sixties (which never gets to the truth of his life just its artifice). I turned to the middle of the book, where the images are placed. There, I saw Warhol’s superstar Joe Dallesandro [Fig. 1]. The black and white photograph of Dallesandro in Popism is a film still from “Warhol’s” film Flesh (1968).[xxvii] The photograph shows Dallesandro, naked, on a bed with two women. Both women don tattered underwear and t-shirts; they are intertwined, facing each other, and asleep. Dallesandro is on his stomach, but he is lifting his torso off the mattress by resting on his elbows. His head is turned toward the direction of the women; he does not seem desirous, but rather acutely ambivalent: in the film he is a male hustler who is attempting to raise money for his girlfriend’s abortion, who happens to be in a lesbian relationship—this is the entangled female couple on the bed.[xxviii] I, however, was ravished by the image of Dallesandro.[xxix]

The next book that I pulled off of the shelf was Ronald Feldman’s Andy Warhol’s Prints: A Catalogue Raisonné. Flipping through the catalogue, I saw Warhol’s artworks, which constitute Warhol’s art for art history: Campbell Soup Cans (1962), Marilyn Diptych (1962), and so forth. Toward the end of the catalogue, I was captivated by Warhol’s silk-screens titled Sex Parts and another titled Fallatio (1977) [Fig. 2], which showed sex between men.[xxx]

Done in highly contrasting black and white, and with sexual images of pulling, twisting, jerking, fucking, and sucking, the images are exquisitely graphic. These silk-screens were completed in 1977, and there are hundreds of Polaroids of the sessions that led up to the final selection for this series.[xxxi] According many observers, so many biographies filled with anecdotes and gossip, Warhol was excited by the project, and it was a site of erotic exploration, and in his queer fashion he would rather be with the flesh of the Polaroid—in the restroom, alone—as opposed to the flesh of the bodies before, during, or after the session.[xxxii] As opposed to the labeling of Warhol as “asexual” or “voyeuristic” by numerous art historians (how was this enactment at all “asexual” or “voyeuristic,” in the psychoanalytic sense?), his engagement during the multiple erotic sessions can be understood as a queer sexuality and encounter that refuses “normal sexual encounters” and the scientific taxonomy of sexuality for “nonce taxonomies,” to borrow from Sedgwick.[xxxiii] During the same time period, Warhol also created Torsos (1977-78) and Piss Paintings (also known as Oxidation Paintings) (1978), which are both about queer-erotic and un-becoming bodies, and which filled Warhol with a queer combination of excitement and shame.[xxxiv] And, as with Warhol, the images filled me with excitement and shame, but then the shame was usurped by extreme excitement: it was a veritable tug-of-wag between affects. I was washed in red. So, with books in hand, and with my face completely flushed, I took to the second floor, and I locked myself into a study booth—as Warhol took to the restroom decades earlier. I wanted to be alone and undisturbed with Warhol, Dallesandro, and these images of men—which composed my solo performance of queer shamelessness.[xxxv] And this makes sense, at the level of affect theory. According to Silvan Tomkins, “shame operates only after interest or enjoyment has been activated.”[xxxvi] Also, all of the work, which aided in creating this cocktail, I have so far mentioned stretches from Warhol’s early days as an artist to his latter days, which demonstrates that Warhol’s oeuvre is more than “sprinkled” by queer visualities that can be “understandably” overlooked; rather, it is drenched in queer visualities—you can’t miss it, yet the massive elisions chronically take place in modernist art history.[xxxvii]

Shame/-less & “Shame[-/less] Creativity”

Shame is an affect we have all experienced, but this does not mean we experience it on the same level, to the same degree, or work with it in the same way. Shame is both a specific and general affect—but it is a primary one[xxxviii]—that connects to other affects (i.e., shyness, humiliation) that any given subject may be (temporarily and simultaneously) experiencing, and the range, depth, and intensity of said affect(s)—here, shame—are various and multiple.[xxxix] In other words, and as an axiom, whatever shames me as a particular subjectivity, may not shame another, but whatever does shame another is important to her or his subjectivity and worldview.[xl] For the remainder of this paper, which follows Tomkins and/via Sedgwick, I will adhere to this definition of shame: it is an implicit or explicit affect that emerges after the feeling of interest and/or excitement; a particular subject at first feels an intense interest, and afterwards the subject feels a sense of shame due to, in Tompkins terms, a failed “norm compliance” or disappointment of an given expectation[xli]—and, hence, the subject is shamed. This stated, it is important to state that what “triggers” shame is not inherent, essential to any given circumstance, situation, and/or object, and “shame triggers” are not always the same triggers—even for the same person that was once shamed by a given trigger. That written, it should be clearly stated that one is and is not born “shame-based”—rather, shame, as well as other affects, is co-produced through cultural, historical, and social reiterations of norms and one’s deviation from them, as well as ones particular history and psychological makeup.[xlii] Furthermore, as Sedgwick has argued, for some people, and most often queer subjects, “shame is simply the first, and remains a permanent, structuring fact of identity: one that … has its own, powerfully productive and powerfully social metaphoric possibilities.”[xliii] Yet, one would expect that there would be no connection between shame and creativity, that shame could in no way aid in various practices and productions, but in Regarding Sedgwick, Stephen Barber and David Clark pose some questions that connect them: “What pleasures and pains flourish …? What unpredictable futures await those for whom being shamed is a condition of personal and political efflorescence …? What new optics will need to be created through which even to glimpse the fecund boundary zones … of ‘shame-creativity’?[xliv] Warhol and his art can help answer these questions.

With the above asked and stated, I will focus more explicitly on shame(-less), queer, and creativity in relation to Warhol. I will continue to create “new optics,” other “spectacles”—in order to open up art-historical practices to queer visualities, identities, and identifications. I will further explore the art and body of Warhol because the productivity of queer performances and productions resides precisely in the capacity that queer subjects obtain from not only clinging to “shameful” objects and subjects of their desires, but queers, such as Warhol, invest things with a near-inexhaustible resource of vitalizing energy, productivity, and potentiality—in a shameless way that is queer.[xlv]

A Shame/less Warholian Spectacle

From the moment of Warhol’s debut, in the late forties, on the New York stages, he became widely known as a commercial illustrator; he became particularly known for his shoe drawings for I. Miller and other establishments.[xlvi] In the mid-fifties, during his commercial art success, Warhol began to search galleries to show his drawings.[xlvii] He kept a collection of (mostly erotic) drawings he would make of many of the young men at the Serendipity III, a gay bar in Manhattan.[xlviii] The drawings ranged from boys kissing, to feet intertwined, to erotic portraits [Fig. 2]; also during this same time period he was making a book of drawings, never to be shown, called The Cock Book, which lavished shameless, queer-erotic investments and attachments to this object (of desire).[xlix]

His first exhibition was in 1952 at the Hugo Gallery; the title of the exhibition was “Fifteen Drawings Based on the writings of Truman Capote.”[l] The exhibition meet with art reviews that denounced the drawings, among other things as a “carefully studied perversity” and the “art … depends upon the delicate tour de force, the communication of intangibles and ambivalent feelings.”[li] It isn’t difficult to surmise the fifties-style allusions in the review to denouncing Warhol’s (and Capote’s) homosexuality (and their homoerotic works and lives), as well as the shaming techniques that would follow the denunciation of those not adhering to norm compliance—such as Warhol and his drawings. Indeed, Capote was openly homosexual, and he hyperbolically performed the persona of the modern dandy, and the exhibition by Warhol was conceived as an homage to Capote—whom the pre-Pop artist often attempted to contact.[lii] After this exhibition Warhol approached his friend, and fellow artist, Philip Pearlstein to take other drawings to the Tanager gallery to show his work; Pearlstein was reluctant, given they were all of young, nude men that were all drawn in suggestive poses (read: “overtly homosexual”).[liii] Warhol was, of course, rejected from the gallery. But the poor press from his first exhibition, as well as the lack of financial success from it—not to mention the rejection from the Tanager gallery and all the attendant shaming—did not stop Warhol from creating drawings that were even more erotic and homosexually oriented within the visual. Hence, in 1955 he got a show at the Bodley Gallery, which was next to Serendipity III, in which he showed his “Drawings for a Boy Book,” which according to Victor Bockris and others, “were mostly of cocks with bows tied around them or kisses on them and faces of beautiful young men.”[liv] It opened on Valentine’s Day in 1956, and according to Richard Meyer, “the Boy Book drawings frame the male body as both appealingly decorative and youthfully self-absorbed”—furthermore, Meyer argues that “[l]ike the February 14 date of the show’s opening, these drawings suggest Warhol’s romantic attachment to other men.”[lv] I would add to this that we can see how Warhol re-routed/re-deployed previous shame techniques into overtly shameless enactments. In fact, he shamelessly showed with the Bodley again, in 1957, for his exhibition “A Golden Book”—which was, once more, a celebration of young, nude men.[lvi] He was invested in such images (and bodies) and though they would trigger shame in him (and others), he refused to let the objects go; rather, he held them close, which would play out in his art and life not only in the fifties, but also in the sixties and beyond. Each one of these exhibitions is a blatant instantiation of a queer Warholian spectacle: they shocked the art world.

Performing Shame-less, Performing Queerness; Queer Warholian Spectacles

Warhol chronically enacted a swish persona and presented a queer (many at the time would say “strange,” “peculiar”) body that was intertwined and infused with shame/-less and queerness. For example, in an early sixties conversation, as Warhol began to become more well situated in the art world and started to make a name for himself, he had a telling and personal conversation between himself and Emile de Antonio (or “De” as Warhol called him).[lvii] Both discuss why other established and emerging artists neither liked nor respected Warhol. In the conversation, De bluntly states that Warhol is too well known as a commercial artist, and he takes too much pride in the fact that he likes his career; further, De explains that other artists also do commercial work, say, for example, Johns and Rauschenberg, but they do not use their real names, and they do it as a part-time job—whereas Warhol made a name for himself in the advertising world. Finally, De stated that Warhol was too swish for the art world.[lviii] When De tells Warhol this he becomes troubled—and shamed. Warhol states:

What De had just told me hurt a lot…. Finally I just said something stupid: ‘I know a lot of painters who are more swish then me.’ And De said, ‘Yes, Andy, there are a lot of painters who are more swish—and less talented—and still others who are less swish and just as talented, but the major players try to look straight, you play up the swish thing—it’s like an armor with you’.[lix]

Later, Warhol becomes self-reflexive on performing himself as swish, and he states, “as for the ‘swish’ thing, I’d always had a lot of fun with that—just watching the expressions on people’s faces. You’d have to have seen the way all the Abstract Expressionist painters carried themselves and the kinds of images they cultivated, to understand how shocked people were to see a painter coming on swish.”[lx]

Both the conversation between Warhol and De, as well as Warhol’s subsequent reflections are telling in three ways. First, De tells Warhol that he is not liked because he is so well known as a commercial artist, which is to say, without saying it, he is not a “real” artist. It is also worth noting that Warhol was not just a general commercial artist, but an illustrator for women’s shoes, perfumes, and other feminine accessories and products; thus, combining what he did with how he performed himself, as it were, would add a distance between him and, say, the Abstract Expressionist who were busy performing normative masculinity, and all of them refusing commercialism, and the same is also true for the covertly gay artists Johns and Rauschenberg.[lxi] The other point crosses paths with the aforementioned one, in order to be a US artist one had to play up (not the “swish thing”) but the “macho thing,” which would necessarily surface brutal homophobia and misogyny in the art world during the 50s and 60s (and which still goes on today).[lxii] Finally, this conversation between Warhol and De immediately brings to the fore how Warhol was shame-based person—but in a shameless way: “I decided not to care [what people thought], because those were all things that I didn’t want to change …, that I didn’t think I should want to change. … [A]s for the swish thing, I’d always had a lot of fun with that. …”[lxiii] Indeed, the commencement and continuation of a queer Warholian spectacle—both shameless and queer.

One could easily imagine that while the conversation ensued, Warhol’s pale, white skin quickly showing the inward shame-experience on the surface of his skin: his face turning beet-red—that classic somatic-spectacle that many shame-based subjects knows is unavoidable.[lxiv] But even though Warhol experienced shame because of his swishiness he still wore it like “armor,” as De stated, and Warhol clung to it throughout his career—as if it was a space of protection, and also as a space that charged his shame-creativity. In the words of Silvan Tomkins, while experiencing shame the shame-based person thinks, “in shame I wish to continue to look [or talk, or make, or perform] and be looked at [or spoken to or seen in my performing of myself], but I also do not wish to do so.”[lxv] And, isn’t this so very Warholian—the “both/and” that he chronically performed? Also telling is Warhol’s comments about his performance as swish, which I read as a valuable insight into the type of Foucauldian “practices of the self,” or “aesthetics of existence,” that Warhol can be read as performing.[lxvi] Also, a Foucauldian aesthetics of existence opens up other ways of (un-)becoming and (re-)performing the self as a resistance to the normative; for example, Warhol’s “perverse” art, which emerged in the fifties and continued until his death, and which Warhol, though red in the face, as his friend Bob Colacello has stated, created a large body of work on this topic—even though he was always embarrassed while creating and showing them.[lxvii] Again, according to Tomkins, the shame-based person refuses to give up the love-object even in the midst of shame—the subject stubbornly clings to it.[lxviii] Without a doubt, Warhol, by playing up the “other extreme” throughout is lifetime, and in spit of his shame, can be read as refusing and resisting to identify with his contemporary male artists.[lxix]

Shame-less Body, Queer Body: Living a Queer Warholian Spectacle

Warhol not only discussed his art, but also his bodily movements, and he overtly presented his queer body on the public stage. [Fig. 4] Warhol:

It’s all there. The diffracted grace … The bored languor, the wasted pallor … The chic freakiness, the passive astonishment … the chalky, puckish mask, the slightly Slavic look … the perfected otherness, the wispiness, the shadowy, voyeuristic, vaguely sinister aura, the pale, soft-spoken magical presence, the skin and bones… The albino-chalk skin. Parchmentlike. Reptilian. Almost blue … The knobby knees. The Roadmap of scars. The long bony arms, so white they look bleached. The arresting hands. The pinhead eyes. The banana ears … The graying lips. The shaggy-white hair, soft and metallic. The cords of the neck standing out around the big Adam’s apple. It’s all there …”[lxx]

Warhol chronically embraced his queer body in all of its particulars. For me, Warhol can be seen as a corporeal site of bodily difference—if not queer embodiment—when compared to any of the artists of the fifties, sixties, and beyond.

Caroline Jones argues that Warhol always presented himself, via his vestimentary codes, in ambiguous ways. According to Jones, the clothes that Warhol donned as he traversed the New York art stage were veritable fashion statements.[lxxi] Jones, brings to the fore a specific outfit that Warhol often donned: the complexly signifying black leather jacket, which was tied to both the macho, heterosexual, and misogynistic biker and a growing gay leather and SM scene—and visually coded as a biker.[lxxii] [Fig. 5]

The ostensibly masculine, heterosexual biker with his black leather jacket and biker gear was a phenomenon that took place after World War II, and who simultaneously became a gay icon. According to several historians of gay history and visual culture, the biker gradually replaced the then dominant image of the ephebe and the “sad young man” in gay literature and visual culture.[lxxiii] In every way, the gay biker distanced himself from the signs and enactments of “effeminacy” and “femininity.” According to Juan A. Suárez, “the biker’s aggressive stance offered a more empowering and affirmative gay icon that borrowed from spectacular forms of youth rebellion and replaced the besieged, passive look of the sensitive young man with a dire stylistic attack.”[lxxiv] From the fifties on, the gay biker became a sign of power, strength, and virility, also for many self-identified gay men the biker-figure functioned as a symbol of masculine, homoerotic desire, and ironically an identification with aspects of normative, masculine heterosexuality.

From hyper-masculine bikers to “physical culture” photographs of “rough and brutal bikers,” which were reproduced in “alibi” magazines in the late fifties and sixties, many gay men employed the image of the biker in homoerotic ways [Fig 6].[lxxv] From apparel to posing, the gay biker appropriated the codes of the ostensibly masculine, heterosexual biker, which, of course, was made popular by Marlon Brando—but queered by Warhol in his iconic silk-screens of the star. [Fig. 7]

According to Richard Dyer, “macho [of which the biker is a figure par excellence] is far more clearly the conscious deployment of signs of masculinity. In this way macho is close to the other predominant forms of gay male ghetto culture, camp and drag.”[lxxvi] But, not all “drag” – the biker being an example – is disruptive to masculine heterosexuality; for example, the masculinity that I read the shameless, queer Warhol chronically performing himself against.

In 1964, Life magazine published a story on the rise of gay biker and leather bars in San Francisco. The article, entitled “Homosexuality in America,” phobicly discusses the increasing visibility of “homosexuality” in the USA. The reporter describes the scene at the Tool Box, one of the most popular gay leather bars on the west coast in the sixties, and he also interviews the co-owner of the bar, which is particularly enlightening in regard to gay codes and roles within the leather, SM, biker scene. Bill Ruquy, the co-owner and interviewee, states, “[t]his is the antifeminine side of homosexuality. We throw out anybody who is too swishy. If one is going to be homosexual, why have anything to do with women of either sex. We don’t go for giddy kids.”[lxxvii] Interestingly, this sounds bizarrely similar to the attitudes and antics of the Cedar Bar, where Pollock and company hung out and performed themselves while picking on the “swishes.”[lxxviii] Furthermore, according to Jack Fritscher, a leather and SM writer, after reading the article in Life, “[t]housands of queers … who thought they were the only faggots in the world and, worse, thought that all faggots were queenly – having taken into their souls the Sex-Barbie stereotype straights had crammed down their throats – suddenly saw … that there was an alternative homomasculine style. Non-nelly faggots breathed a sigh of relief.”[lxxix] The appropriation of the masculine, heterosexual biker and his black leather jacket were also an appropriation of a more insidious form of masculinity. In many ways, some gay communities were attempting to align themselves with aspects of normative, masculine heterosexuality. Even before the prescriptive identity politics that emerged after Stonewall, many gay communities throughout the US attempted to “normalize” themselves. And, disappointingly enough, this “normalization” was tied to anti-effeminacy and, in no small way, misogyny.

Around the same time as this more visible “homomasculinity,” and the issue of the Life article, Warhol began performing himself in the biker look. In the words of Warhol, “I didn’t have a real fashion look yet … Eventually I picked up some style from Wynn [Chamberlain], who was one of the first to go in for the S & M leather look.”[lxxx] Of course, Warhol was referring to his outfit of the fifties and sixties: black leather jacket, beat-up jeans, and leather boots. But, Warhol dressing in the vestimentary codes of the “leather look” neither performed a more masculine heterosexual nor homomasculine look. It is worth repeating the words of Warhol, “as for the ‘swish’ thing, I’d always had a lot of fun with that …”[lxxxi] To be sure, Warhol in black leather swishes it up, thoroughly queering black leather. For example, Warhol, in a series of photographs taken by Stephen Shore, performs himself in opposition to the roles prescribed to one sporting the homomasculine biker look; Warhol performs himself as a “nelly faggot.” It is these types of self-enactments that Warhol explicitly goes against the grain of normative conceptions of the artist, hetero- and homo- masculinity, and all the codes of the biker and leather—and in a thoroughly shameless and queer performance. And this may very well be why, as Simon Watney has argued, “Warhol [was] neglected by gay cultural critics” because “his work [and life] frankly and painfully enacts scenarios of homosexual shame which were largely incommensurable with the aesthetic of normative ‘positive images’ that so dominated lesbian and gay Anglophone culture.”[lxxxii]


This paper opened up in a indecorous fashion for modernist art history—if only to surface and highlight the shameless and queer art and life of Warhol. In doing so, I think there is an new optic—a new spectacles via a spectacle—for looking at Warhol and his work, which can produce more translations, and I did this in order to (re)surface all that has been elided, and thus re-think other ways to script the artist and the art that can aid in the opening up of art history and move it away from the practice of modernist objective/disinterested writing that in this historical moment is unfruitful.[lxxxiii] Without a doubt, shame/-less and queer are a subject’s relation to her-/him-self, others, and the world, and it aids in seeing otherwise and feeling different. Exploring what I have briefly engaged in, shame/-less, queer, and Warhol are definitely worth continuing to explore with regard to other embodied, subjective, theoretical, and political modes of thinking in order to expand our understanding of artists’ (not just Warhol’s) subjectivity, and what it may mean to the practice of art history in a rather shameless and queer way.


[i] For a deployment of anecdotes in order to re-think the way art history is scripted see the important text by Gavin Butt, Between You and Me (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005); for a theory with/on anecdotes see Gallop, Anecdotal Theory (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002). Indeed, Warhol told his life via anecdotes; In this way I follow Warhol; see The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977) and Popism (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980).

[ii] Such embodied writing is influenced by the writings by Amelia Jones; see “Meaning, Identity, Embodiment,” in Art and Thought, eds. Dada Arnold and Margaret Iversen (Oxford, England: Blackwell Press, 2003), 71-90, which is a critique of the Kantian idea of “disinterestedness,” which is played out in modernist art history; also it should be noted that art history has performed some acrobatics and slights of hand to have Warhol become an unproblematic canonical figure; see Douglas Crimp, “Getting the Warhol We Deserve,” in Social Text 59, vol. 12, no. 2 (summer 1999): 49-66 and Richard Meyer, “The Art-Historical Problem of Andy Warhol,” in Artscene, May 2002: 11-12.

[iii] It is important to note that whenever I discuss “Warhol,” I am not laying claim to a “real” Warhol; rather, I am overtly scripting my Warhol against, or with, other art historians’ Warhol, which are also never about the “real” Warhol: there isn’t one. I adopt my theoretical position from Michel Foucault’s “What Is an Author?,” in Language, Counter-Memory, Practice, ed. Donald F. Bouchard, trans. Donald F. Bouchard and Sherry Simon (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1997), 113-38, in which he states “[the] ‘author-function’ results from a complex operation whose purpose is to construct the rational entity we call an author. Undoubtedly, this construction is assigned a ‘realistic’ dimension as we speak of an individual's ‘profundity’ or ‘creative’ power, his intentions or the original inspiration manifested in writing. Nevertheless, these aspect of an individual, which we designate as an author… are projections, in terms always more or less psychological, of our way of handling texts: in the comparisons we make, the traits we extract as pertinent, the continuities we assign, or the exclusions we practice” (127, italics mine), also see Crimp, “Getting the Warhol We Deserve,” in which he persuasively writes that the Warhol that “we” have fulfill specific desires that are passed off as the “real” and the “true” life and times of Warhol and his work, but alas they are all fabrications.

[iv] A “Queer Warholian spectacle,” which is part of my construction of Warhol (and his attendant scene/s at his Factory and beyond—so a constellation), is a term that gestures toward (my) Warhol’s affects, sensibilities, and enactments of self, along with those around him. So, for now, I simply, and provisionally, define it as an event; something that is queerly disruptive because of how it shamelessly—and through a movement of queerness—dissolves or disrupts borders, “proper” gender roles (in fact all propriety), and multiplies sexuality; for example, the Warholian underground film The Chelsea Girls is a queer Warholian spectacle, as too Warhol’s own self enactments, as it were, which I will soon discuss.

[v] First, and as I will return to this, shame and queer are neither isomorphic nor unique to each other; however, queerness gives us a particular slant on shame, and queerness seems to be particularly able to performatively transform shame to shameless. Now, for an example of a text that desires to see the subject “freed” from the “toxin” of shame, see John Bradshaw’s Healing the Shame that Binds You (Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, 1988). For the recent backlash against gays and lesbians, one only needs to read the national polls and see the numerous anti-gay initiatives and legislations.

[vi] I am partially drawing on Eve Sedgwick’s thinking of “queer,” as theorized in Tendencies, 7, in order to explain what I aim to do with shame(-less) and queer(-ness).

[vii] Watney, “Queer Andy,” in Pop Out: Queer Warhol, Jennifer Doyle, José Muñoz, and Jonathan Flately, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press: 1994), 22.

[viii] I am drawing on, as well as extending the work of, Sedgwick; see her essay “Queer Performativity: Warhol’s Whiteness/Warhol’s Shyness,” in Pop Out, 134–143; she was the first to write about Warhol and shame, and Douglas Crimp followed suit in “Mario Montez, For Shame,” in Regarding Sedgwick, eds. Stephen M. Barber and David L. Clark (New York: Routledge, 2002), 57–70; however, neither one has discussed shame and shameless as intertwined nor has either one reckoned with how shame and shameless might play out in their personal, political, and theoretical work. Yes, what I am calling for (and rather shamelessly) is to critically discuss feelings, as well as the deployment of a subjective art history—but one made up of small (and even disparate) stories.

[ix] Andy Warhol, prod. and dir. Kim Evans, 76 min. Image Entertainment, DVD, 1987.

[x] Ibid., and see Stephen Koch, Stargazer (New York: Boyars Press, 1973), 95–96, 148, Victor Bockris, Warhol: A Biography (New York: Da Capo Press, 1997), 254-59; also, Billy Name, personal interview, 26 May, 2001, in which he claims that Baby Jane Holzer was “the first real Warhol superstar.”

[xi] Ondine, whose name was Robert Olivo, was to many the greatest of Warhol’s superstars; this term was used for any of the denizens in Warhol’s world who made it into one of his films; for more on this and Ondine see Bockris, Warhol.

[xii] Swish is a term that connotes a man who performs himself as overtly effeminate—if not a modern-day dandy.

[xiii] Chelsea Girls, dir. Andy Warhol and Paul Morrissey, 195 min. Andy Warhol Museum, 1966. I would like to thank the Warhol for allowing me to screen this film.

[xiv] According to Bockris, Warhol, 254-255, Jonas Mekas introduced Page to the Warholian scene; this was her first and only performance on film for Warhol, and it is a scene that is highly controversial.

[xv] For more on this paradoxical linkage see Shame and Its Sisters, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick and Adam Frank, eds. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 138-39

[xvi] For an invaluable discussion of the censorship around Warhol’s queer work in art history, see Doyle, Muñoz, and Flately, “Introduction,” in Pop Out, 1-19.

[xvii] Gallop, Anecdotal Theory, 2.

[xviii] Sedgwick, Tendencies, 3.

[xix] Ibid., 8.

[xx] Ibid., 9.

[xxi] Edelman, No Future (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2004), 24-25.

[xxii] Robert Summers, “Queer Movements: Vaginal Davis, c. 1994,” unpublished paper.

[xxiii] See Silvan Tomkins, In Shame and Its Sisters, ed. Adam Frank and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995), 154-159. In a sense, shame is “contagious.”

[xxiv] Butler, “Critically Queer,” in Bodies that Matter (New York: Routledge, 1993), 223-242.

[xxv] Ibid., 223.

[xxvi] To make this argument, I am drawing on the work of Sedgwick, Tendencies, Butler, “Critically Queer,” and José Esteban Muñoz, Disidentifications (University of Minnesota Press, 1999).

[xxvii] Warhol did not direct Flesh—in fact, one could theoretically argue that he did not “direct” any of “his” films, but this is a topic for another paper; rather, Paul Morrissey, Warhol’s film assistant, directed the film.

[xxviii] See Flesh, dir., Paul Morrissey, 105 mins., 1968. The majority of Warhol’s, or Warholian, underground films have never been released to the general public, and, the best of my knowledge, no (art-historical) work has been done in the possible connections between his paintings and films.

[xxix] Within the next several months, I rented every film in which Dallesandro was the star; without a doubt, from that moment, from looking at that image, in that book, I was a Dallesandro fan—as is true for many queer or gay men who “discover” him. See Thomas Waugh’s “Cockteaser” in Pop Out, 51-77. With regard to the image, I am also referring to the work of Roland Barthes—especially how erotic images un-do him—Camera Lucida, Richard Howard, ed. (New York: Hill and Wang, 1980).

[xxx] It should be stated that these images have never been included in any Warhol retrospective or in any major Warhol exhibition. Also, it is interesting to note that my first encounter with Warhol’s art was not via the canonical, hegemonic narrative and related images—what I call the “sanitized” or “de-queered” Warhol. If I had the space for it, then I should like to bring up “queer knowledge” and how the subject ascertains it, but this is another paper.

[xxxi] Beyond the portfolio for these images, there are dozens of various on them, yet none have ever been shown in a Warhol retrospective.

[xxxii] For similar accounts, see Bockris, Warhol, 418, Bourdon, Warhol, 361, and Bob Colacello, Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), 377.

[xxxiii] This is the inventive creation of taxonomies, which are constantly being made; see Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet (Los Angeles and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 22-27.

[xxxiv] Colacello, Holy Terror, 341-44.

[xxxv] Affect theorist, Tomkins states In Shame and Its Sisters, 135, “Once Shame has been activated, the original excitement or joy may be increased again and inhibit the shame or the shame may further inhibit and reduce the excitement. … Thus a shy child may suddenly break into an un-ashamed stare, or he may turn away completely. ….” This can rather easily be tied back to my experience at the library; I had, and still have, that “un-ashamed stare” that is nonetheless shamed.

[xxxvi] Cited by Elspeth Probyn, in Blush (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005), 5.

[xxxvii] See Doyle, Muñoz, Flately, “Introduction,” Crimp, “Getting the Warhol We Deserve,” 49-66, and Meyer, “The Art-Historical Problem of Andy Warhol.”

[xxxviii] Sedgwick and Adams, “Reading Silvan Tompkins,” in Shame and Its Sisters, 5.

[xxxix] Tomkins, Shame and Its Sisters, 133-135.

[xl] Tomkins, Exploring Affects, ed. E. Virginia Demos (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 169.

[xli] Ibid.

[xlii] Ibid.

[xliii] I want reiterate that this articulation of queerness and shame is only true for some people; this isn’t a trans-historical, universal phenomenon, or (it should go without saying) essential to queer(ness). I am not making a claim that all people experience and use shame in the same way—however, some do, and most are queer. For more on this see Sedgwick, Touching Feeling (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), 64-65; also, see the various essays in the important anthology Gay Shame, David Halperin and Valerie Traub, eds. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). For issues of shame and Black subjectivities see Kathryn Bond Stockton, Beautiful Bottom, Beautiful Shame (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006).

[xliv] Barber and Clark, “Queer Moments,” in Regarding Sedgwick, 27; emphasis, mine.

[xlv] Shame and queer have always, to some degree, been culturally, historically, and theoretically intertwined, and shame and queer have often been used as descriptive rather than performative. But, we can re-activate queer as an action and not a description. We can also re-activate shame as a duel affect: shame is shameless in the performance of itself.

[xlvi] Bockris, Warhol, 117-118.

[xlvii] Bockris, Warhol, 112-20.

[xlviii] Andy Warhol, prod. and dir. Kim Evans, 76 min. Image Entertainment, DVD, 1987. It should be noted that gay bars during this time were more than tacit in their existence.

[xlix] Tony Scherman and David Dalton, Pop: The Genius of Andy Warhol (New York: Harpers, 2010), 33; see also, Bockris, Warhol, 92 and Bourdon, Warhol, 56.

[l] Ibid., 99-100; see also Paul Alexander, Death and Disaster (New York: Villard Books, 1994), 22; Colacello, Holy Terror, 402.

[li] J.F., “Irving Sherman and Andy Warhol,” in Art Digest, vol. 26, no. 18, July 1952.

[lii] Warhol, Philosophy, 148; see also Bockris, Warhol, 73, 86, 91-92. One would easily argue that Warhol was obsessed with Capote—on many levels: from fame to sexual attraction.

[liii] Bockris, Warhol, 119.

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] Meyer, Outlaw Representation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), 123.

[lvi] Bourdon, Warhol, 54-56.

[lvii] Warhol, Popism, 10-13.

[lviii] Ibid., 12

[lix] Ibid.; emphasis in original.

[lx] Ibid., 12-13.

[lxi] For more on the gender enactments during this period, as well as the refusal of the commodity and commercialism, see Marcia Brennan, Modernism’s Masculine Subjects, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London: MIT Press, 2004 and Caroline Jones, Machine in the Studio.

[lxii] See Jennifer Doyle’s essay, “Fear and Loathing in New York,” in Feminist and Visual Culture Reader, ed. Amelia Jones (New York: Routledge Press, 2003), 15–17.

[lxiii] Warhol, Popism, 12

[lxiv] See Tompkins in Shame and Its Sisters, 133–178.

[lxv] Ibid., 137.

[lxvi] Foucaultian “practices of the self,” or “aesthetics of existence,” can be loosely defined as a practice allows for “new creations” and way of inhabiting the world. See Michel Foucault, “Technologies of the Self,” in Technologies of the Self, eds. Luthar H. Martin, Huck Gutman, and Patrick H. Hutton, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988, 16–49.

[lxvii] Bob Colacello, personal interview, 21 November, 2000.

[lxviii] Even though a person maybe ashamed s/he will, and can still, cling to the object or situation that brings about the shame in the first place; see Silva Tompkins, 139.

[lxix] See Watney, “Queer Warhol” and Kenneth Silver “Modes of Disclosure,” in Hand-Painted Pop, Russell Ferguson, ed. (Los Angeles: MoCA, 1992), 178-203.

[lxx] Warhol, Philosophy, 10.

[lxxi] Jones, Machine, 241.

[lxxii] Ibid., 244; S/M is the standard abbreviation for sadomasochism.

[lxxiii] Richard Dyer, Now You See It (New York: Routledge, 1991), 105-117; see also Waugh, Hard to Imagine.

[lxxiv] Juan A. Suárez, Biker Boys, Drag Queens, and Superstars (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1996), 158.

[lxxv] Waugh, Hard to Imagine, 60.

[lxxvi] Dyer, Matter of Images (New York and London: Routledge, 1993), 42.

[lxxvii] Quoted in “Artist Chuck Arnett: His Life/Our Times,” in Leatherfolk, 109.

[lxxviii] Giorno, You Got to Burn to Shine, 132-133.

[lxxix] Jack Fritscher, “Artist Chuck Arnett: His Life/Our Times,” in Leatherfolk, 107.

[lxxx] Warhol, Popism, 28.

[lxxxi] Ibid., 12-13.

[lxxxii] Watney, Queer Andy,” 29.

84 After the numerous interventions in art history, it seems absurd to continue the business of this field as usual.