La Factory girl which gives the title to the last book by Nadia Busato is called Ultra Violet and she is a Franco-American artist (born Isabelle Collin Dufresne) who was Dalí’s muse, as well as a former student of the Sorbonne escaped from Europe to land in the world of Andy Warhol: she is the narrator of a story that reveals the shadows of a factory where no one wanted to create something but where everyone wanted to dismantle everything by scandalizing anyone.
«We knew this earthquake – says Violet – it would have overwhelmed parts of ourselves too, but what we had not foreseen is that those parts of us that we wanted to annihilate and forget could not be destroyed without consequences. Art, sex, drugs, photography, music, cinema were all cogs that we whirled to crush the world, inside and around us ». Isabelle-Ultra Violet realizes this and for decades searches for the survivors of that factory which has become a legend but which – speaking of freedom and emancipation – claimed victims: and they were all only women.
Women on the fringes of Warhol’s world
In a world where Andy Warhol was the master father, they were to be relegated to the margins. In the end, the story of the New York counterculture comes out, the result of a long documentary work that makes these pages precious: a reading that has an invigorating pleasure and a hidden objective, to better understand our present.
How was the book born?
When I interviewed John Giorno, Warhol’s former partner, for I’ll Never Be Anyone’s Good Wife, I had a lot of material left over. The more I read it, the more I realized that there was the key to so many current things. This time I talked about another woman, Edie Sedgwick, who died of an overdose of pills and found by her husband: the investigation into her death that Violet makes in the book allowed me to reveal another version of that era. For her, the key to that strange suicide is in fact the last film shot with Edie and entitled and Andy Warhol Story, with a set transformed into a ring and the shot mysteriously disappeared from the Factory.
Who was Edie, as well as a girl from the swinging sixties?
A model who manages to pose for Vogue making the last shoot of her life. She blames her for proudly exhibiting her physical secret: drugs. That is, everyone knew how much drug was circulating in certain circles but she has an extra brand: she comes from the Factory. Hence the end of her. She dies at 28.
Andy Warhol died at the age of 58, in 1987. His fame was a crescendo, and not only for the increasingly popular works. He had insane social strength and, the book reads, “changed the way the Atlantic West views art and the world.” And perhaps also the way we view ourselves.
Exactly. With the Factory, lesbianism knows a moment of vindication and the foundations are laid for many current themes. I think of fetishism as hardcore pornography, the birth of a radical environmental consciousness as the freedom of female self-determination up to the cultural roots of globalization. Warhol’s group was a moment of breaking and he was like the naked child screaming at the naked king.
And in art?
After him, the exercise of power always in the masculine remained. That speculative aspect that now goes hand in hand with contemporary art, given that Warhol’s only purpose was to make money. I would say that it is a reasoning applicable to the great tool of the internet, a misogynist world controlled by capital in the hands of male-dominated societies where the exhibition of the female body is dominant but where social networks erase the nipples because they are immoral.
Warhol overshadowed all the names in pop art. He was lucid and aware of his he worth. And the girls?
Their connivance made him socially acceptable. Women were the glam sheen of a system that became more attractive but was actually just a trap. One by one they went from worshiping their “creator” to knowing that they had been exploited. Violet herself realized that she had slept with the executioner for years. From this point of view, living at the Factory was scandalous without being truly revolutionary.
Scandal and art, however, went hand in hand.
Judith Malina, director of the Living Theater, one of the most emblematic realities of ’68 where drug addicted actors, full nudity and promiscuity between the audience and actors bordering on harassment were staged, said that artistic effectiveness is measured against scandal.
Warhol also provoked.
Yes, he took marginalized individuals who gave scandal to how they conducted their existence. But his goal was the opposite of the revolution: if anything, he wanted to take his place in a top role, become a brand of himself and earn endlessly. He used people seeking social acceptance to gain notoriety. The only negative judgment for him was boredom. Things either excite you, for better or for worse, or bore you.
The real revolution has to wait.
Yes, we are children of ’68 but we are not parents (yet) of anything.
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