On April 6, the night of the only showing of Andy Warhol's Chelsea Girls (brought to Ann Arbor by Ondine, the owner of and an actor in the film), we distributed copies of the following statement to the audience:
TO ONDINE, this gathering is just one more boring event in his boring life. We, on the other hand, see this assemblage as anything but boring. It may be appalling: for here is an over-the-hill "actor," who, by sole virtue of his association with that proto-fascist swine Warhol, is able to help himself to the unanimous, servile enthusiasm of several hundred University of Michigan students too young to know anything about Warhol. Tonight's assembly may also be potentially liberatory, because here is an opportunity -- not to celebrate our own freedom, nor to observe someone else as he or she exercises his or her own freedom -- to exercise the most urgent form of freedom, which is the destruction of idols, especially those idols (Ondine, for example) who present themselves in the name of freedom. Tonight will be anything but boring.
One need not be a film or art critic to realize that Warhol's "revolutionary" aesthetic of the 1960s was a complete failure in that it didn't unseat the dominant political and social conditions, which is at least what it pretended that it wanted to do. But, when viewed from the perspective of the interests of the dominant class, Warhol's "revolution" was a resounding success. As any reader of Warhol's Interview will attest, it now proposes and ratifies the bourgeois credo What is good exists, and what exists is good. And yet here is Ondine, in the middle of an unsavory campaign to transform Warholism into a recognized institution of the dominant society, for which it has always been a loyal watchdog. When pressed to justify himself and his dogma, Warhol -- and, no doubt, Ondine as well -- will resort to the specious defense that Warholism, unlike Fill-in-the-Blankism, defended certain aspects of the old world that are supposedly dear to all.
We call upon the students of the University of Michigan to reject this phony, this apologist for the old world. YOU HAVE ALREADY COMPROMISED YOURSELVES by being mixed up with Chelsea Girls, an immense compendium of mediocrities. Look at the person sitting next to you: you have practically nothing in common with him or her. This film and the Question and Answer session to follow, are nothing but false encounters. The time has come to make them real. Let's decide something.
Several important things happened over the course of the evening, the most obvious of which was Ondine's statement that Warhol was indeed a fascist and "that he makes no bones about it." This remark wasn't greeted by a storm of protest and indignation: except for the 20-odd people who walked out of the screening, no doubt due to boredom, the students in question fully lived up to the "unanimous, servile enthusiasm" of which we had accused them. Ondine then went on to attempt to excuse Warhol's politics with the unsupported and surely unsupportable claim that Warhol is a "genius, " as if that might make a difference one way or the other. Ondine's attachment to the reigning spectacle was elaborated further when he claimed that Chelsea Girls represents "the apex" of the 1960s, that it captured better than anything else that era's style, mood and content. If this is true, then the "history" of the 1960s has little relevance to what's going on today. Who would even want to live in the society depicted by Chelsea Girls?
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