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"Andy Warhol's FactoryPeople"

Three hour series includes excerpts from over fifty hours of original interviews, hundreds of never before seen photos, exotic film clips, and a lot of very cool stuff . . . all backed by a mind-blowing original soundtrack.

The Making of "Andy Warhol's Factory People" ...


Meeting Andy Warhol...from an interview with Gerard Malanga

GerardMalanga_FactoryPeople.jpgWho are you?

My name is Gerard Malanga and I am a poet and a photographer and a film maker, and I have been at it, started writing poetry in 1959, published my first works in 1962, in 1963. I was introduced to Andy Warhol who hired me as his silk-screen assistant and we silked-screened many important paintings between 1963 to 1967 and a little bit into 1968.

I grew up in the Bronx, I was a first generation American Italian. Grew up in very modest circumstances, went to an art high school, studied Graphic and advertising design. I started writing poetry in my senior year, all of a sudden I realized I was discovering a secret language that seemed much more interesting than what I was doing, in comparing me going into the work force of Madison Avenue. So I decided I wanted to become a poet, more glamorous, not realizing that I wasn’t going to make any money out of it. Three years after I graduated high school, I met Andy Warhol, and he asked me to come to work for him, because he realized I had silk-screening experience and he needed someone to help him silk screen his paintings. And so what started out as a summer job, because I was in college at the time, wound up being a job for seven years.

Tell me first about how you met Andy and what your early impressions were?

I met (Andy) through a mutual friend, a poet named Charles Henri Ford, and Charles knew of my artistic background and my skills at silk-screening, so Charles is really the catalyst that brought Andy and me together. Charles was living in New York, but he also had an atelier in Paris on the Ile St. Louis, so he was going back and forth. He lived in the Dakota, his sister lived in the Dakota, Ruth Ford, an actress, and she was married to Zachary Scott, who was a really wonderful man, whom I knew quite well. So Charles lived a charmed life.

So the first time you met Andy?

My actual meeting with Andy occurred in, I would say in November 1962 at a party at the home of Marie Mencken and Willard Maas, who were film makers, husband and wife film makers, and Willard was also my English professor at College. Andy was brought to their party by Charles Heni Ford who many months later was the one who was the catalyst to arrange for Andy and I to meet. That would be early June of 1963. So actually my early impressions of Andy, I was not really impressed, I kind of snubbed him at this party. I was more interested in the poets. I did not even know who Andy Warhol was at this time.

I don’t even think Andy knew who he was. The pop art movement was still on the runway; it was still waiting to take off, so none of them were really famous at that time. They were just starting out all of them, including Andy. So I had no sense of who Andy was, except when I went back to his house the first day we worked together, I saw some of his Campbell Soup Can artworks in the living room, although Andy was not really famous at that point. So I Started working for Andy in June of ’63.


Defining the Silver Factory Period...from an interview with Victor Bockris

VictorWarhol biographer Victor Bockris sat for two long interviews (four hours) to tell us about the Silver Factory and the people in it. Today, he lives in the Chelsea Hotel in New York. 

 "I am a writer living in New York for the past 28 years, covering essentially the major iconic figures of the counter culture and the arts, the cultural changes of the last thirty years, and my central focuses have been the Warhol factory, the Beat Generation, reborn with the return of William Burroughs in 1974 after 25 years of exile, and the emergence of punk in the mid seventies that coincided with Burroughs return and Warhol’s come back from being shot, so there were an abundance of extraordinary things there, and I was right in the center of, and have been writing about."

How would you define the period of the Silver Factory?

The Siver Factory definitely has periods. ‘ 63/64 is the beginning... ‘65/66 The middle.. ‘67/68 is the end of the Silver Factory.

One of the least known periods is that early period because it’s before he starts “Make Love”. He’s started to make films but it’s not known yet. He hasn’t made his impact he is still seen as an artist. Which, you know, means a more limited audience, a more limited, in a sense those were quiet days.

There were some very beautiful photos of him and Gerard Malanga making the Brillo Boxes...where you see the whole room full of these boxes..and there is just the two of them..crawling around the floor and just doing bits and pieces. There was a lot of that.

There’s Gerard Malanga, Billy Name and Ondine...the three horsemen of the Silver Factory...who are “following Andy to hell” wherever he wanted to go. The body guard of Lawrence of Arabia. I always think...Lawrence of Arabia had this famous bodyguard... which consisted of 60 men who swore to die in protecting him. I always thought that people’s attitude at the Factory was sort of similar. There was an enormously and really quite wonderfully protective feeling towards Andy.

In the beginning you just have this little group. It made it very strong and very tight. They were going through Andy’s last great painting period. The Silver Factory opened in the April of 1964.That was the year they did the Brillo Box Show...and later that year, he painted the Flower Paintings and that was his last show of paintings on the wall.

Then, in 65, in Paris, he announced he was retiring from painting to make films. So that was another aspect of this early period. There was this very intriguing filming beginning-to happen. It hadn’t picked up a pace yet where they would make a film every two weeks. It was beginning to happen. Andy’s form of filming was essentially an interrogation. The film was like a sort of interrogation which goes along with everything else he was doing, in a way.

People would say that everything Andy did visually was based on photography. Which is true. Photography is the basis of his mentality almost. The actual photograph and everything. Equally, he was interested in recording voices, and he really had a very good sense of how to do that badly in films and how to do it very well in interviews and so on.

I would say that the Factory, from the moment it opened it’s doors was one of the most intelligent art communes in the world compared to the Bauhaus say, early on, or whatever earlier examples you have of that. It was on a very high-level think tank, a communal artistic gathering place.


It"s all very" Warholian"

FactoryFunWeb.jpgWhen we started this production, we spent a week filming early interviews in New York City. Then we flew back to Paris to do transcripts and start the base edit. To do the transcripts, we had the studio make a set of vhs time coded video tapes. We started the transcript process and ordered all of the filmed material transferred to the editing hard drives. One of the PA's took the master tapes over to the editor doing the transfers in his studio. On her way to the studio, a kid on a skateboard came up behind her and grabbed her bag from her shoulder. The police gave chase but to no avail. The original masters were lost to posterity, and we had to re-shoot 25 hours of interviews! Very Warholian! When we went back to New York to pick up and start over, we had a very clear idea of what we were after and what we had missed the first time around. In the end we had about 50 hours of interviews to work with. A batch of content twice as rich and three times as cool! "Dig deep to find gold!"

Billy Name and the "Factory People" photos story


Billy Name was the creator of the Silver look of the Factory.

Billy had a party and Andy came over. Andy saw that Billy had done his entire apartment in silver foil, silver paint, silver everything. They became lovers for a brief time and Andy invited Billy to make his new loft/workspace all silver...hence The Silver Factory.

Andy made Billy the official gate keeper and archival photographer of all the activities and happenings in the Silver Factory. Billy was the only person who actually lived in the Factory for the entire period the darkroom.

He left the Factory after Andy was shot by Valerie Solanis, leaving behind 5000 photo negatives in his silver trunk. Years later he arrived back to New York and attended Andy's funeral. At the funeral, Paul Morrissey told him that Andy had always kept Billy's silver trunk for him and that he was free to take it. He took it. Billy's high contrast photos represent one of the key visual cornerstones of "Factory People". 


Surface Tension...Reflections On Warhol

thesilverfactory_factorypeople.jpg by Charles Borkhuis, poet

Despite Andy Warhol’s monotone preference for being a machine, which certainly had its hypnotic and terrifying aspects, there was also something playful, even Zen-like about his studied blank stare.

To listen to him tell it, there was nothing behind that opaque surface, but this was part of the ironic paradox of his created persona and not to be taken literally. By filling us up with more and more reproductions of the Real, Warhol was actually emptying us out, but in a typically Western, additive way. As a meditation on Nothing, his art invited our cultural excesses to cancel themselves out: more is more than more -- it’s less.

He favored making more channels and more information available to more people, partly because he wanted to show that increased choices numb our ability to differentiate between them. We’re free to say anything we want, but everything we say means less and less. In a culture in which everything from presidents to toothpaste is sold to us in the same way, meaning plays third fiddle to the delivery system. Andy didn’t really want to make more choices; he wanted to let the machine make the choices for him.

In Warhol’s world, there is a flattening out of all values; everything and everyone has become replaceable; nothing is for real, or for keeps. Everyone is allowed his 15 minutes of fame, but then he has to give up the mike to the next wannabe. If Warhol told us there was nothing behind his surface, he was doing it with a wink towards posterity. But, of course, he wouldn’t be caught dead winking. We would have hated him for it if he had. Far from being cynical, Andy was open and enthusiastic about the cultural changes happening around him. Although some criticized him for being apolitical, taking sides was not his way. He was ontologically disengaged. The strength of his vision was not in changing the world so much as seeing it clearly as it is, and in his fragile, dandyish way, he did that better than any artist of his time. Even his detractors had to admire the purity and consistency of his life-performance. He was capable, as few are, of playing out his philosophy to the bitter end. Fast on the reversal switch, Andy refused to make art his life; he made his life his art.

He coyly avoided being food for the intellectual feeding frenzy that is critical theory. Yet if he was anything, he was an idea man. He gave pop culture images back to us as if they were masterpieces, and indeed they now appear as our classics. But he did it with a kind of casual, throwaway flippancy that took the air out of his own balloon before anyone else did. It was impossible to argue with him. You can’t argue with a cipher. Part cagey minimalist, part discrete sage, he provoked the viewer into doing the hard work of arguing with himself. He pointed to who we are, what we value, and where we are headed, but refused to interpret for us.

In contrast to the previous generation of abstract expressionists, who saw themselves as making agonizing, existential decisions about their art, he suggested that artists were no different than anyone else; we’re all commodities for sale in a consumer society. And we’re becoming more so. Individuals were not interesting to Warhol; what was interesting was their “star quality,” their capacity to make others want to watch them. The subjects of his silkscreen portraits were often caught in all their gaudy, over-exposed, hyper-reality, and he made them pay. But how could he do otherwise when people had already made themselves into items for sale? His infamous statement, “Business is the best art,” was a slap in the face to those who thought that there was still some point in distinguishing the art object from the packaged commodity. Warhol had clearly observed that ideas about individuality and originality had run out of gas, and that the mass-produced object was fast on the way to replacing us. Our subjectivity was disappearing, and we were complicitous consumers in this commercial, body-snatching operation.

The images he gave us were under our noses: the soup can, the cow, the superstar, the shoe, yet as Duchamp had realized: Hang a shovel in an art gallery, and it’s no longer just a shovel. Objects are colored by a certain intensionality, which we place over them. But Marcel made one of a kind, whereas the Andy-machine made many of the same.

Warhol’s genius was wrapped up in the simple, unpretentious way in which he told a radical truth about pop culture -- so simple, in fact, that it was hard to believe what he was saying. Whatever he said was always too much and he knew it. Words were simply placeholders for silence. His dazzling, brief statements had the discriminating crystallizations of poetry, and in this sense, he was a visionary minimalist, not unlike the Haiku masters.

A lifelong Catholic, Andy was always religious, even strangely erotic in the way that saints, in their extreme vulnerability, are eroticized by a nearness to death. Warhol was an icon of twentieth-century art, and icons don’t talk much. They pose in bas-relief, inviting crowds to circle in awe and fascination, and in this regard, they are not dissimilar to the famous, captured in the halo of a flash photo. Neither religious icon nor pop idol has a real identity; both have defaulted to a ceremonial pose, so stone and photo becomes them. Neither words nor events can touch them because they inhabit the sanctity of the artificial, the solitude of the beyond. They are nothing like us; instead, we have made them into stars flashing in the firmament, yet we remain guided by them, in order to venerate and worship that which we could never attain.

After he was shot and almost died, Andy became more ghostly, more ethereal, perhaps in a sense, a reproduction of a reproduction, posing the question of whether he was ever truly alive. Even his silver-dyed hair, chosen years before nature would intervene, may have served as an early talisman against aging. Death couldn’t really reach him because in an important sense, he had already died. Warhol was our bad mirror; he bounced our reverse image back at us without exaggeration or comment. If we were absorbed in a frantic youth culture that tried at all costs to keep death at bay, he would show us how to do it better. Swallow a bit of death each day and your image will never grow old.

Perhaps Andy never quite crawled out from under the shadow of the crucifix: he took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his life for us, over and over. Like the saints, Warhol chose to keep silent and let others speak for him. He carried a tape recorder around to restaurants and clubs and started the now infamous “Interview” magazine and then stepped away from it, just as he had stepped away from his underground films and let the machine keep rolling without him. He wanted to be replaced, to disappear inside his creations. Seemingly he had nothing to say, but paradoxically, he had more to tell us about ourselves, and our ghostly, virtual future than any artist in the second half of the twentieth-century.

*    *    *    *    * 

Charles Borkhuis is a poet, playwright, and critic. His plays have been
produced in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Hartford. 
      His radio play The Sound of Fear Clapping was aired over WNYC
radio and nominated for a Peabody Award. Some of his produced plays
include: Phantom Limbs, Bruises, Nothing to Declare, The Accident, Destinations, Sunspots,
Hamlet’s Ghosts Perform Hamlet, Magnetic North, and Surface Tension. He is a recipient
of a Dramalogue Award in playwriting and the former editor of Theater:Ex magazine, an
experimental theater/performance publication. He recently completed a full-length filmscript
entitled Undercurrent. 
      His three collections of poems are: Dinner with Franz (Poetry New York, 1998), Proximity
(Stolen Arrows) (Sink, 1995), and Hypnogogic Sonnets (Red Dust, 1992). A new book of his
poems Alpha Ruins (Bucknell University) is forthcoming in 2000. His poetry has been anthologized
in: Writing from the New Coast: Technique & Practice (o.blek), Primary Trouble (Talisman House),
The Gertrude Stein Awards In Innovative Poetry - 1995-96  (Sun & Moon), and the Avec Sampler -
1998 (Avec). Several of his essays on contemporary poetry are forthcoming in 2000 in two books
published by the University of Alabama: Post-Language Poetries and We Who ‘Love to Be
Astonished’ (innovative women’s poetry).
   Mr. Borkhuis lives and writes in New York City.