Warhol 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 yet...so he is still seen as an artist. Which, you know, means a more limited audience, a more limited press...so, 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”...to 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.