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Like Andy Warhol

Date and Time: 
Wednesday, October 26, 2016. 06:00 PM - 08:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center Board Room
Workshop: 
Feminisms & Queerings
Meeting Description: 

Speaker: Jonathan Flatley, Associate Professor of English at Wayne State University.

I will discuss the Introduction for my forthcoming Like Andy Warhol.  The book examines Warhol’s liking.  It contends that for Warhol, “liking things” was a project to be pursued, involving abilities that could be nurtured and educated.  I argue that Warhol’s impressive commitment to liking constitutes a coherent organizing principle running through his enormous and diverse body of work in multiple media (including drawing, painting, cinema, video, photography, writing, graphic design, tape-recording, performance and collecting).  In analyzing his work as an archive of his liking, I seek to offer an alternative to a certain common sense view that understands Warhol’s art (and its machine-like use of repetition, for instance) as a defense against being affected.  Instead, Like Andy Warhol presents liking as a praxis, a de-instrumentalized affective labor, which aimed to engage and transform the world in a context where (as Warhol put it) “it would be so much easier not to care.” It discerns a pedagogical effort in Warhol’s promiscuous liking as well, an ambitious attempt to initiate others into its pleasures: “I think everybody should like everybody.”  Warhol’s primary method for pursuing liking as a project was an inventive and varied production of and attention to ways of being, acting and looking alike.  It is important to emphasize that this being alike is both experientially and conceptually distinct from being equal or identical.  As Jean Luc Nancy concisely observed: “the like is not the same.”  The book examines the effects of Warhol’s replacement of the opposition between the same and the different with a roomier orientation toward likeness, which (among other things) made a space for Warhol to conceive of attraction, affection and attachment without relying on the homo/hetero opposition so central to modern ideas of sexual identity and desire. Both antiassimilationist and antiseparatist, refusing to affirm an identity, while also stubbornly avowing his attraction to the male body and more generally making room for non-normative feelings, attractions and ways of life, Warhol’s liking is queer, and queer as distinct from gay.  Or, as Eve Sedgwick said of the “immemorial current that queer represents,” of which Warhol’s liking would appear to be a paradigmatic instance: “keenly, it is relational, and strange.”

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