wailingwarhol (wailingwarhol) wrote in beathipsters,

Warhol and the Beats

I'm finding that there seems to be some kind of a similarity between the Beat Generation and Warhol. Both were somewhat alike in the sense that they had a different 'outlook on life' compared to the norm. They bought a different enthusiasm which society couldn't and wouldn't handle. Being so much within 'society' means that true expression and the chance to develop your own take on life never takes place. 'Society' forces everyone to adhere to everybody else, to be 'normal', and then claims this as 'freedom' and tells us of 'diversity' which exists in our society. The Beat Genration and Warhol existed quite seperate from society; allowing them to develop and nurture ideas and live in 'harmony'—in the sense that they could hold their own perspectives and ideas without the ideals and niceties of life being forced onto them by 'society'. You would say that the Beat Generation existed within the framework of society—a lot of what they did was together and within the boundaries of the 'norms' set by 'society'. But when explored, you discover they didn't. They partied and socialised not primarily for partying's sake, but to share and explore ideas, and look for new experiences by being with other people. Because they were very much aware of the aforementioned things, their whole intention was different, they were very much outside of 'society'. I guess this is also true in Warhol's case. You see, I don't think that the other people within Warhol's group had the same outlook or even the same ideas as Warhol himself, and I also think that the people around Warhol probably garnered an idea about him and what he was and what he was doing, but I somehow think they didn't really know him. Warhol somehow seems that he was very much his own, and no-one really understood him, and so he played along to peoples perceptions of whatever they thought of him.
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I've been thinking about this since I read it. There are a few areas where Warhol and the Beats may overlap, but the differences are more striking. Also, they are (mostly) different decades. Many of the beats were productive in the 60's and later years, but the impacts of their work come in the 50's.

Warhol was trained in commercial art, and entered the world of high society. His relationship to fame and wealth is complex, but it's a theme.

Yes, he dealt with a demimonde in some of his work as the Beats did, especially his films. An even seemier demimonde. And his work did glorify the quotidian, the everyday article, and give the sense that everyone could live in their own little bubble of fame.

But the beats had an older vision of what it is to live ones life as an Artist. Life in pursuit of the Truth; in pursuit of Art; and sacrifice of worldly comforts for that Art. I think that most of them were aiming for a literary success. Also, much of their message was spiritual and anti-bourgeois.

You can't really call Andy Warhol anti-bourgeois. And I am not sure he seeks meaning and significance. These are key goals of the Beats' works (generally).

Another interesting contrast is in terms of sexuality. Warhol always insisted he "liked to watch" and was asexual. He didn't take a stand as a gay artist, but presented himself as an asexual surrounded by gay men, transsexuals, women (fag hags) and drug addicts.

While some of the beats were all about repression of gay or bi characteristics (Kerouac, especially), others fought in the courts to protect their pioneering works- notably Burroughs and Ginsberg. They were a big part of the legal effort for individualistic self-expression which later protected Warhol's work.

As for your points about Warhol's circle of friends and collaborators-- Warhol was a myth-maker about himself, tantamount to Bob Dylan at the same time. He talked a lot without revealing what was within- or if there was anything within. I think that some of his crowd liked to do coke or do smack, and some liked to collaborate with him on some unique artistic experiments. But most of them would agree that fame is putting on a wild wig and jumping in front of a TV camera, and also that daily life and the articles of daily life are as sacred and profound as the most rigorous spiritual life.

you give warhol very little if any credit. and he did seek meaning and significance, just read any of his books, and they'll reveal more meaning than any of kerouac's books. it's only that warhol tried ti find meaning through the absurdity and from witihn the mess of society, which i think is particularly intelligent.
warhol developed a new perspective of life from within, and the beats from without, both are admirable. but what warhol did was much braver and much harder and not enough credit is given to him. warhol admired the glamour of things which are otherwise hate figures, like shopping malls, and over the top fashion, and by doings this he outlined the emptiness of such things.
as for warhol's sexuality, it can quite as much be represented as showing that sexuality isn't significant at all, it quite literally shows he didn't restrict himself at all, by categorizing himself.
one has to look beyond individual things he did and look at the whole thing in perspective. i think once that is done, one might even conclude he was bigger than the beat movement itself.
I'm not sure what you mean about "life from within" vs. "from without" here.

I replied because you are comparing numerous bodies of works here, and I think that needs to be done with clarity and awareness that Warhol's context is the cultural revolution sparked by the Beats.

If you put Warhol and all the beats together in a room, I don't think any of them would care who was "bigger", they would all understand that there is no measure to compare them by.

You would be comparing a multitude of artists, many of whom have continued to grow and find new themes beyond youthful rebellion and living counter to the bourgeoisie. You mention Kerouac, who didn't thrive and prosper, but many of his group did/have.

I do have a prejudice, from the perspective of current popular culture: fame and media celebrity are goals today for themselves, and I think that Warhol's work (including his life and lifestyle), given that it is delivered without values, permits and encourages this. For most of the Beats, Kerouac included, fame was an inconvenience.

Nevertheless, Kerouac's focus on the mode of creation (typing nonstop on an endless scroll to capture the moment of creation) presages current focus on the medium as part of the message; Burroughs' use of the "cut-up" was picked up by Brian Eno and from there thousands of hip-hop producers and turntablists; and Ginsberg lived a life and had a work of moral and social engagement which is a model.

I do think about Warhol and admire him. He has had a major effect on something basic, sense of identity. I've seen many of his movies, 30 or 40 probably, and have read "A" (long ago) and parts of the Diaries. You are much more of a fan and follower of his, though. I just think that the 50's and the 60's are different eras, in a way that the 80's and the 90's or the 00's weren't. And that has to be respected.

i totally agree with what your saying.
i guess what i mean from witin vs without is that the beats pretty much rejected mainstream society, not as much as i was previously thinking. thinking about it, it is a pretty weak point i'm making here.
my interest in the beats and warhol vary over time, it's only that i've found more depth in the work of warhol, and i'm still to realize this depth in the beats.
as for my interest goes, if anything i find the beats really fascinating, more so in the sense that i understand them more, but like i say, i still need more understanding.
but like you rightly say, they were different eras.
While living in Pittsburgh, I visited the Warhol Museum twice. It was pretty cool. I actually have a couple of pics from there, if you'd like to check them out.
I've never read any of Warhol's books, however, I am OBSESSED with the beats. Kerouac is my hero. I would consider Desolation Angels as my favorite book. I mean, depending on what mood I'm in, but, the rest of them too. Burroughs, cats like Tom Wolfe and Ken Kesey, I mean, as far as American literature from a lost and alienated generation, I don't think it gets much better.
There is actually a part in "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," where Tom Wolfe is interviewing Ken Kesey, in Kesey's "Warehouse" with his "Merry Pranksters". Kesey had just gotten out of jail, and Tom Wolfe was asking him about the whole... movement, ya know.
I'm not verbatim here but Wolfe asks, "What your doing here, would it be safe to compare it to what warhol is doing back east?"
And Kesey says something like, "There a 2 or 3 years behind over there," or something of that nature.
Well, check it out for yourself, it's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," by Tom Wolfe.