INTERVIEW BY A POET

“Andy and I made the “Andy Warhol Interviewed by a Poet” in June and July 1963, as a parody, a fake interview, about nothing and for nothing. Stupid and trashy, and dumb, not intended for anything, with no agenda; a response to the serious, self-serving art world. We did it in taxis, when Andy came by my place at 255 East 74th Street to pick me up to go somewhere, and in his place on Lexington Avenue and 89th Street, and in the Firehouse Factory, and anywhere. Whenever Andy said something that sounded like it fit in an interview, I scribbled down the words. I made up the questions to fit the answers. They were typed up separately. A dysfunctional interview, and in the style of a Tennessee Williams play. “Oh, just put it together any way,” said Andy. “It doesn’t matter.” It was never published. We had a good time doing it, laughing and loving and resting in the play of each others’ minds. There was no bad or good. Everything was totally great.”
           
John Giorno


 

FILM STILLS OF JOHN GIORNO FROM ANDY WARHOL’S
SCREEN TEST, NEW YORK, 1964-6 © THE ANDY WARHOL MUSEUM, PITTSBURGH; FOUNDING COLLECTION, 2017

THE ANDY WARHOL FOUNDATION FOR THE VISUAL ARTS,

INC./ ARTISTS RIGHTS SOCIETY (ARS), NEW YORK.

Place: The former locker room of the old No. 13 Hook & Ladder.

POET.
(winningly) How long have you been a painter?

ANDY.
When I was nine years old I had St. Vitus Dance. I painted a picture of Hedy Lamarr from a Maybelline ad. It was no good, and I threw it away. I realized I couldn’t paint.

POET.
That is a revealing fact. Your first painting was of a movie star. What is your capacity?
Are you a fast worker?

ANDY.
I can make a picture in five minutes, but sometimes I run into so much trouble. I have to do them over and over. Or I don’t have enough turpentine, and everything is sticky. I did fifty Elvises one day. Half my California show. The roof of the firehouse leaked, and they were all ruined. I had to do them all over.

POET.
How come you weren’t in the Modern Museum show this year?

ANDY.
I was crushed. But it doesn’t matter.

POET.
How come?

ANDY.
(coughing) They had Marisol and Bob Indiana, and I guess they thought three from one gallery would be too much. I was so hurt.

POET.
What do you think of Abstract Expressionism?

ANDY.
Art is dead.

POET.
Why Is Art dead?

ANDY.
Nobody thinks. Nobody uses imagination anymore. Imagination is finished.

POET.
What do you think of Larry?1

ANDY.
He’s the daddy of the “Pop Art.” He’s so chic.

POET.
What is “Pop Art?”

ANDY.
“Pop…Art”…is…use…of…the…popular…image.

POET.
Is “Pop Art” a fade? [sic]

ANDY.
Yes. “Pop Art” is a fade. [sic]
I am a “Pop Artist.”

POET.
Would you like to go with Marlborough?2

ANDY.
Oh, yes. They are international, and I hear they give you a private secretary. That would be good for my career.

POET.
Did you get any free soup from the Campbell soup people?

ANDY.
No! Not even a word. Isn’t that amazing? If it had been Heinz, Drew Heinz would have sent me cases of soup every week.

POET.
What do you think of the nude figure in American painting?

ANDY.
Oh, Art is too hard.

POET.
What’s that can of paint on the floor? It looks like house paint.

ANDY.
It is. I mean it’s the black paint I use.

POET.
Don’t you use tubes like other artists?

ANDY.
(crossly) Ohhhh, no.

POET.
What pigments do you use?

ANDY.
A silver spray can, plastic paint…and varnoline.

POET.
What’s varnoline?

ANDY.
I clean my screens and brushes with it. I am having so much trouble. I am allergic to varnoline. I break out in red blotches and vile sores. I’m going to have to stop painting.

POET.
Did you just become allergic to it?

ANDY.
Yes. In the last two, three weeks.

POET.
And you have been using varnoline for two years?

ANDY.
Yes.

POET.
Don’t you think it is psychosomatic?

ANDY.
No… Yes… I don’t know.

POET.
Well, if you weren’t allergic to it for two years, I think it was caused by a mental disorder.

ANDY.
(confused) I guess so. It gets in your blood. Varnoline is poisonous. That’s what causes the…

POET.
Where do you have your silkscreens made?

ANDY.
Mr. Golden.

POET.
Is that where Rauschenberg has his made?

ANDY.
(huffily) Yes… Oh, don’t put that in your interview.

POET.
Tell me what do you do when you’re not painting.

ANDY.
I believe in living. I didn’t before. I spent fourth of July in the country, and I had forgot about living. It was so beautiful. I started going to Sam Ronny’s Health Club on Broadway and West 73 Street, every day for four hours. I get massaged, box, swim under water… I want to be pencil thin… I want to like myself… What else? I am making a movie about Sleep.

POET.
Sleep! What about Sleep?

ANDY.
A movie of John Giorno sleeping for eight hours.

POET.
How fascinating. Could you be more explicit?

ANDY.
It’s just John sleeping for eight hours. His nose and his mouth. His chest breathing. Occasionally, he moves. His face. Oh, it’s so beautiful.

POET.
When can I see it?

ANDY.
I don’t know.

POET.
Tell me more about your painting.

ANDY.
I am going to stop painting. I want my paintings to sell for $25,000.

POET.
What a good idea. What are you working on now?

ANDY.
Death.

POET.
(transfixed) Hmmmm.

ANDY.
The girl who jumped of the Empire Building, a girl who jumped out of a window of Bellevue, the electric chair, car crashes, race riots.

POET.
Where do you get your photographs?

ANDY.
My friends clip them out of newspapers for me.

POET.
Do you think Marisol has affairs with people?

ANDY.
Nobody knows.

POET.
When can I see your death pictures?

ANDY.
In November. I’m having a show in Paris3… (with despair) I haven’t done them yet. I will have to do all of them in one day. Tomorrow… I don’t know why I’m having a Paris show. I don’t believe in Europe.

POET.
How do you think Oldenburg compares with Marisol?

ANDY.
(impatiently) Ohhhh… You can’t ask me questions like that.

POET.
Would you like to meet Elizabeth Taylor?

ANDY.
(ecstatic) Ohhhh, Elizabeth Taylor, ohhhh. She’s so glamorous. 

POET.
Tell me more about you painting. 

ANDY.
It’s magic. It’s magic that makes them.


The End


John Giorno, 1963




Previously published in Andy Warhol, I’ll Be Your Mirror, Kenneth Goldsmith (ed.), (First Carroll & Graf Edition, New York, 2004), 21-26. Transcript: “Andy Warhol interviewed by John Giorno

(1963). The Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburgh, PA). Founding Collection, Contribution The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

            1 Larry Rivers. Artist, 1923–2002
            2 Marlborough Gallery (New York).
            3 Galerie Ileana Sonnabend (Paris), January–February, 1964.

Contributors

John Giorno

Andy Warhol

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