Interpretation of Andy Warhol’s Interview with Gene Swenson-1964

In 1963 the young art critic G. R. Swenson set out to define Pop art through two series of interviews with eight leading artists associated with the new movement. Swenson, a Pop proponent, spoke with Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol for the first article, published in November 1963, and with Stephen Durkee, Jasper Johns, James Rosenquist, and Tom Wesselmann for the second, which appeared in February 1964.


In the in interview, Andy Warhol expressed his wish for everyone to be like a machine- doing the same thing over and over again. He believes that being a machine is like liking things or accepting things the way they are with no questions asked. He compares this act with the way Brecht was making everyone to think alike. Though Brecht’s focus was on communism he picked just the core idea of his intention. He says-“I think everybody should be a machine.I think everybody should like everybody.”


The reason he says this is because he believes that being creative is difficult and its difficult to think what we are doing is not creative because everybody is talking about it, everybody is being creative and trying to be individualistic. He gives an example how there so many actor or painters and all of them are really good. The fact that each profession has soo many styles, it is difficult to compare different styles. How can one say that this style is better than the other. And the fact that there are new styles coming up everyday is a bigger fish to fry. He believes that one has to be able to an abstract expressionist or a realist or pop artist the very next week without having a feeling of giving up on anything.


He predicted the concept of ‘trend’ long before it happened. He said-“I heard that Lichtenstein said he might not be painting comic strips a year or two from now — I think that would be so great, to be able to change styles. And I think that’s what’s going to happen, that’s going to be the whole new scene. That’s probably one reason I’m using silk screens now. I think somebody should be able to do all my paintings for me. I haven’t been able to make every image clear and simple and the same as the first one. I think it would be so great if more people took up silk screens so that no one would know whether my picture was mine or somebody else’s.”


He points out that in the end it is a completion of one style over another based on what is being accepted more predominantly by the audience. And this way he believes that some artists get left behind. And he questions why should they be left behind hence feels that the best thing to do is be like everyone. Be a machine and produce the same thing over and over again.


This is the reason he got into commercial art. He felt that commercial art was like machine work except that it had emotion and attitude in it as it was conceptualized by people who had some sort of vision and sort of message that they wanted to convey with the product. So his work was to simply do what he was asked to do- machine.


When asked about his death series he point how it all started by news everywhere about people going to die or a plane crash or headlines in newspaper about the plane crash killing 129 people. He felt that after a point of time people get used to gruesome images, especially when they have to see them over and over again.

He also discussed his next series, which are going to be pornographic pictures. He rhetorically describes his concept –“They will look blank; when you turn on the black lights, then you see them — big breasts and… If a cop came in, you could just flick out the lights or turn on the regular lights — how could you say that was pornography?”


When asked to comment about what he feels about the name “Pop Art”, he retorts by saying that it sounds awful. But he also feels that it doesn’t really matter because no on really knows what the names of movement is really supposed to mean or what they need to do about it. He says-“It doesn’t matter what you do. Everybody just goes on thinking the same thing, and every year it gets more and more alike”

He lastly points out a very striking thing about the current scenario in the society which he predicted long before about losing individuality and it all being just a scam. He says-“

Those who talk about individuality the most are the ones who most object to deviation, and in a few years it may be the other way around. Some day everybody will think just what they want to think, and then everybody will probably be thinking alike; that seems to be what is happening.”


Funny thing is a lot of things he talked about in 1964 holds true today 54 years later. Is this something to be astonished about or shocked?

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