This Friday I present to you Andy Warhol eating a hamburger. A flame-grilled Whopper from Burger King, to be precise. With a full bottle of Heinz ketchup at hand, Warhol stares somewhat vacantly into the camera before a stoic grey backdrop and proceeds to unravel the contents of the paper sack before him and munch away.
It’s perhaps not the most titillating of footage, in fact, it’s rather more just plain slow and creepy. But Warhol was, is, the king of pop art, a movement another famous artist of the genre, Richard Hamilton, once proclaimed in a letter to be “popular, transient, expendable, low-cost, mass-produced, young, witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous, and Big Business.”
It’s safe enough to say that Warhol knew himself to be the king of pop art, too. There’s something bored, even disgusted about his comportment, and he doesn’t seem to be overly hungry. Is he just halfheartedly going through the motions of executing another quintessentially Warholian act?
Although he appears every bit the soulless and jaded icon, I see this short video as a sign he isn’t spiritless or washed up, as Warhol’s way of confidently reinforcing his mastery over all kinds of easy, everyday art pieces, done as simply and sparsely as possible. He was no stranger to video art, and no doubt many of his other accomplishments on film are, well, much stranger. But this spartan performance piece is greater than the sum of its patty and bun parts, and embodies every single cheap, chic characteristic Richard Hamilton said it should. It’s rather a subtle piece of work; as Warhol tidily sucks at his teeth for several uncomfortable seconds, crumples his greasy paper wrapper, and “signs” his artwork by stating his name and crime as if accused at trial, he methodically tells us viewers he’s the boss.
For as a celebrity artist and party boy, Warhol was fully aware he would be not only remembered but studied and critiqued as well. And here I am, dithering on and making inquiries. I’ve a mind to say that any created thing capable of sparking dialogue should be considered serious art, but decide for yourself whether this recording is worthy or not— while watching Andy masticate ever so determinedly.