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Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.


Frame enlargement. Reel 3,
shot L. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
Grey Room 19, Spring 2005, pp. 2253. 2005 Branden W. Joseph 23
The Play of Repetition:
Andy Warhols Sleep
BRANDEN W. JOSEPH
In late September 1963, Andy Warhol set out for Los Angeles with Gerard Malanga,
Wynn Chamberlain, and Taylor Mead. Aside from Warhols interest in seeing America
by car, he had several reasons at this particular moment to head west. In addition to
the opening of his second Ferus Gallery exhibitionone room each of Elvis Presleys
and Liz TaylorsWarhol would be able to attend the Pasadena Art Museums retro-
spective of Marcel Duchamp. Moreover, having just embarked on a career as a lm-
maker, Warhol seems to have been anxious to visit Hollywood.
1
He had already
begun screening installments of Kiss at the Film-Makers Cinematheque under the
title Andy Warhol Serial and, when the trip began, was in the process of editing his
rst long-duration lm, Sleep.
2
While in Los Angeles, Warhol and Mead were interviewed by Ruth Hirschman of
Pacica Radio. In the context of discussing the unnished Sleep, Hirschman asked,
Is there any tie up between this and lets say, John Cages music? To which Warhol
replied succinctly, Yeah, I think so. At that moment, however, Mead jumped in,
declaring of Cage, Hes a pedantic idea of what you have to free. When Mead con-
tinued disparaging the composer, Warhol uncharacteristically stopped him in mid-
sentence to insist, I think hes really marvelous, but I think that younger kids are
really . . . Before Warhol could nish the qualication, Mead recommenced: Hes
an artist for technicians, for freeing you technically maybe, to wig out on anything
you feel like, bongos or piano wires or alarm clocks or things . . . And once again
Warhol interrupted, defending Cage by declaring, But he, he really is great.
3
At the time Cage would have been very much on Warhols mind. Only a few weeks
earlier he had attended Cages presentation of Erik Saties Vexations, which consists
of 840 repetitions of an approximately eighty-second piano phrase that itself contains
repetitions. Employing a team of ten pianists, the concert lasted throughout the night
of September 9 and 10 for a total duration of eighteen hours and forty minutes.
4
Warhol, according to his associate, Billy Name, stayed for the entire evening, even
lingering afterward to compare notes with Cage.
5
George Plimpton later reported the
24 Grey Room 19
delight with which Warhol recalled the event and Malangawhom the New York
Times pictured at the concert along with Warhols rst superstar, Naomi Levine
would cite Cage (along with Gertrude Stein) as among Warhols most important
influences.
6
That fall, in an oft-quoted interview with Gene Swenson, Warhol not
only noted Cages importance but, in perhaps his only scholarly citation, referenced
Leonard B. Meyers Hudson Review article, The End of the Renaissance? devoted
to the Cagean revolution in the arts (though he was careful to feign mystication
at big words like radical empiricism and teleology).
7
Warhols self-deprecation
notwithstanding, Sleep proves thoroughly imbricated with Cagean problematics.
| | | | |
Cages concert was the first time Vexations had been performed in its entirety.
Although long interested in Saties work, Cage maintained as late as 1958 that one
could not endure a performance of Vexations (which he overestimated as lasting
twenty-four hours).
8
While Cage initially saw the primary value of Vexations as
residing in its power to irritate, by 1963 his estimation had shifted dramatically.
9
Already by 1961 Cages decade-long pursuit of an aesthetic of multiplicity had
reached a certain culmination. His infamous chance investigations formed part of
an experimental practice by which musical results were not determined by either
the actions or the intentions of composer or performer. The result was a music of
unforeseeable possibilities, with sounds arising in such a manner as to surpass
listeners predispositions and act as stimuli to genuinely new sensations and ideas.
The fulllment of this program was signaled by Cages score for Variations II (1961):
eleven transparencies (five marked with a single point and six with a single line)
randomly arrayed atop one another to define a series of sonic events.
10
In order to
determine a sound, a measurement is taken on a perpendicular from a point to each
one of the different lines. The resulting values are used to establish the sounds fre-
quency, amplitude, timbre, duration, point of occurrence, and structure, each line
having been arbitrarily assigned one of these variables. In both theory and actuality
the score for Variations II can give rise to any possible sound; the entire range of the
virtual sonic universe is available at every moment.
11
The score for Variations II brought forth another important realization, for each
different sound derives from the exact same compositional action: the throw of the
transparencies. Yet while theoretically possible, it is entirely unlikely (indeed, prac-
tically impossible) that repeating this action will produce a repeated result. Thus,
John Cage. Variations II, 1961.
Musical score
(one possible conguration).
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 25
in much the same way that
the visit to an anechoic
chamber ten years earlier
helped Cage overcome the
dualism of sound and silencending that silence was actually only the presence of
sounds one does not intendthe score for Variations II pointed Cage toward over-
coming the dualism of repetition and variation, redening repetition as merely the
production of unintentional differences.
12
If his former teacher, Arnold Schoenberg,
had taught him that Everything . . . is repetition. A variation, that is, is repetition,
some things changed and others not, Cage would now transform that edict into its
opposite.
13
Going beyond variation, even wide-ranging variation, Variations II courted
a more radical form of difference: difference unleashed from a priori thoughts and
conceptions, undermining or overturning the conceptual model on which habitual
notions of repetition are built. We can say that repetition doesnt exist, that two
leaves of the same plant are not repetitions of each other, but are unique, Cage would
explain, paraphrasing Leibniz:
And when we examine them [the two leaves] closely, we see they are indeed
different in some respect, if only in the respect of how they receive light because
they are at different points in space. In other words, repetition really has to do
with how we think. . . . If we think things are being repeated, it is generally
because we dont pay attention to all of the details. But if we pay attention as
though we were looking through a microscope to all the details, we see that
there is no such thing as repetition.
14
Having concluded that repetition was in fact a form of difference, Cage seems
to have felt it necessary to undertake an examination of this phenomenon under
the nearly laboratory-like conditions that Saties composition provided. For Cage,
the experiment was a success:
The effect of this going on and on was quite extraordinary. Ordinarily, one
would assume there was no need to have such an experience, since if you hear
something said ten times, why should you hear it any more? But the funny
thing was that it was never the same twice. The musicians were always slightly
different with their versionstheir strengths uctuated. I was surprised that
something was put into motion that changed me. I wasnt the same after that
performance as I was before. The world seemed to have changed.
15
26 Grey Room 19
| | | | |
By September of 1963 Warhols own use of repetition had already become well
established in series of paintings made with stencils, hand-cut stamps, and silk screens.
If he was particularly interested in Cages Satie concert, then, it was no doubt on
account of his search for a means of translating such repetition into the temporal
medium of lm. Shortly after the Vexations performance, an inspired (or, perhaps,
provoked) Warhol screened the rst footage of Sleep for Jonas Mekas, who announced
in the Village Voice, Andy Warhol . . . is in the process of making the longest and
simplest movie ever made: an eight-hour-long movie that shows nothing but a
man sleeping.
16
Although Sleep would ultimately prove shy of six hours, Warhol reiterated his
intention of producing an eight-hour version to Hirschman in Los Angeles.
17
Before
the lm was even completed, the radio host surmised its relation to Vexations and
conjectured, I would suspect that there is not a repetitive moment in your film.
I have a feeling that probably the human face changes.
18
A few months later, in
program notes for Sleeps premiere at the Gramercy Arts Theater, Henry Geldzahler
reiterated such a Cagean understanding. Erroneously describing the nished lm
as eight hours long, Geldzahler decreed:
As in Erik Saties Vexations when the same 20-second [sic] piece is repeated
for eighteen hours, we find that the more that is eliminated the greater con-
centration is possible on the spare remaining essentials. The slightest varia-
tion becomes an event, something on which we can focus our attention. As less
and less happens on the screen, we become satised with almost nothing and
nd the slightest shift in the body of the sleeper or the least movement of the
camera interesting enough.
19
Over the years Geldzahlers characterization of Sleep has been reiterated and ampli-
ed into the lms predominant understanding. Patrick Smith, for example, remarked
that, I can still remember that when [the sleeper, John] Giorno made the slightest
movement, I was startled.
20
David Bourdon would later, and more hyperbolically,
assert, Suddenly, the performer blinks or swallows, and the involuntary action
becomes in this context a highly dramatic event, as climactic as the burning of Atlanta
in Gone with the Wind.
21
To the extent that such an understanding applies to Sleepwhich, as we shall see,
will have to be greatly qualieda Cagean perception of minute changes would blend
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 27
with the visual erotics suffusing all of Warholean cinema. According to Giorno, the
lms genesis can be traced to a weekend in which he and Warhol shared a room in
the country. As Giorno, Warhols then current love interest, recalled, the artist
passed the entire night intently gazing at him sleeping: I looked over and there was
Andy in the bed next to me, his head propped up on his arm, wide-eyed from speed,
looking at me.
22
Warhol would replay this scene years later with another of his
superstars, Edie Sedgwick. I slept in the same bed with Taxi once, he recalled in
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, using the same roman clef name assigned
Sedgwick in a (a novel). She fell asleep and I just couldnt stop looking at her,
because I was so fascinated-but-horrified. Her hands kept crawling, they couldnt
sleep, they couldnt stand still.
23
Although Warhols story primarily served to illus-
trate the effects of an increasingly heavy amphetamine addiction on the most tragic
of his performers, he nonetheless ascribed Sedgwicks arresting screen presence to
a similar type of perpetual motion:
Edie was incredible on camerajust the way she moved. And she never stopped
moving for a secondeven when she was sleeping, her hands were wide
awake. . . . The great stars are the ones who are doing something you can watch
every second, even if its just a movement inside their eye.
24
In The Philosophy Warhol termed this kind of intense, erotic, visual cathexisone
he described as probably very close to a certain kind of lovefascination.
25
And,
as he famously explained to Gretchen Berg, such fascination was part of the attraction
of his early cinema:
I made my earliest lms using, for several hours, just one actor on the screen
doing the same thing: eating or sleeping or smoking; I did this because people
usually just go to the movies to see only the star, to eat him up, so here at last is
a chance to look only at the star for as long as you like, no matter what he does
and to eat him up all you want to.
26
Despite the importance of such scopic investment, any attempt to describe Sleep
as a mere extension of Warhols personality or subjectivity, to see it as a faithful
record of his own voyeuristic or desirous gaze, proves far too reductive. While the
uninterrupted, xed-frame image that Parker Tyler saw as the formal equivalent of
such voyeurism
27
might adequately describe the dynamics of the ninety-minute
portrait lm Henry Geldzahler, or a number of Warhols Screen Tests, most of Warhols
early lms evince signicant complications: Eat, through Warhols resequencing of
28 Grey Room 19
the reels to undermine temporal continuity; Blow Job, through the overdetermining
tension between on- and off-screen space; Haircut (No. 1), through the wholly dif-
ferent staging of characters in each reel, and so on. Even Empirewhich, like Henry
Geldzahler, consists of an entirely static, xed frameproves more complex than
generally assumed. It begins with the prolmic and lmic in apparent unison as the
setting of the sun is recorded by the skys darkening until the Empire State Buildings
lights are illuminated. From the onset of total darkness, the depicted image becomes
nearly inert, the passing of recorded time evident primarily in the blinking light atop
the adjacent Metropolitan Life Building, its flashing retarded (like all of Warhols
silent lms) as the twenty-four frames-per-second (fps) of shooting is slowed to six-
teen fps upon projection. From this moment on, however, the viewers attention
divides between the nearly motionless depicted image and the eeting passage of
lm grain that push processing and the ashes and ares that occurred in developing
have rendered extremely visible. The effect is of a temporal and material splitting:
the ame-like lights of the Empire State Building and the dot of light on the Met Life
tower appear as one layer, temporally slowed, while the grain of the lm stock appears
to cascade across the screen more quicklythe eye on this level being attuned to the
actual speed of projectionlike a heavy rain or a owing, celluloid stream. Although
in actuality a single material entity, Empire perceptually implies a type of layering
that structural lmmakers such as Paul Sharits would later achieve through entirely
different means in, for example, S:TREAM:S:S:ECTION:S:ECTION:S:S:ECTIONED.
More complex than Geldzahlers remarks would suggest, it is through such an
implicit juxtaposition of a stable or recurrent visual constant and minute, eeting,
and unpredictable perceptual changes that Empire might bear comparison to
Saties Vexations.
28
| | | | |
Sleep is habitually equated with Empire, and despite its recent restoration and cur-
rent availability the persistent idea of Sleep as a single, uninterrupted, static shot of
a man sleeping continues to mark even the most intelligent analyses of its relation
to later lm.
29
In actuality, however, Sleep proves innitely more complex, its ve
and a half hours made up of twenty-two separate close-ups of Giornos body, multiply
printed and then spliced together into variously repeating sequences.
30
Given the
attention devoted to repetition in Warhols painting, it is surprising that the repet-
itive structure of Warhols first major film has remained virtually unremarked.
Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.
Frame enlargement. Reel 1,
shot A. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 29
The most prominent exception is P. Adams Sitney, who perceptively noted Sleeps
importance for later structural lm. Yet even Sitney characterized Warhols engage-
ment as spiritually the opposite pole from the active construction and intellectual
intent of structural lmmakers.
31
Upon examination, however, it appears that Warhol
wanted to make the lms repetitive structure evident through what turns out in the
rst reel to be a very deliberate construction.
Sleep opens with Giornos gently breathing stomach shot close up from the side
(A).
32
Limned at the top by the white edge of a sheet, his torso lls the width of the
frame, descending at a slight angle from upper left to lower right. This shot is one of
the most abstract in the lm, difcult to identify particularly on initial viewing. It
is not clear, in fact, which direction Giorno is lying; despite the visibility of his navel,
the lower part of the rib cage can easily be mistaken for pelvic bone. If ignorant of
the sleepers identity, the ambiguous part object on screen might not even reveal
itself as male, so much does the lms graininess and contrasted lighting meld Giornos
body hair into deep shadow.
33
Although the viewer may not notice it, the initial
image, which appears on screen for some twenty minutes, actually consists of six
repeated one-hundred-foot rolls of lm. As in Empire, a multiple layering is put into
effect. The organic, biological repetition of the sleepers breathing (once again,
slowed from twenty-four to sixteen fps) is inscribed within a structure of techno-
logical reproduction, the same shot recommencing every four-and-a-half minutes.
Subtle enough to be overlooked, this repetition is visible through a darkening that
occurs halfway through the shot and is undone after the splice when the scene returns
to its original brightness.
Whether realized by the viewer or not, Sleeps opening sequence establishes the
underlying procedure of the entire lm: enchaining multiple prints of the same shot
to produce seemingly longer takes. Unlike Empire or Henry Geldzahlerin which
eeting temporal changes, if only those produced by the vibrating lm grain, pass
in a single direction not to be encountered againSleep reveals what appear to
be continuous shots as harboring repeated footage, every particle of which passes
before the eye multiple times. Each discontinuity evident in Warhols far-from-
perfect splicing serves to mark the transformation of technological reproduction
into repetition.
30 Grey Room 19
The next six shots in Sleep are different (BG), each initially appearing one time.
The succession is fairly rapid; no image lasts longer than half a minute, with the
shortest (E) enduring a mere seven and a half seconds. The first two (BC) show
Giorno lying on his back, head and chest clearly discernable despite the dramatic
foreshortening caused by the shots angle from the foot of the mattress. The next two
shots, like the initial view of Giornos stomach, are highly abstract. The first (D)
appears to be part of Giornos chest, although the light and shadow contrast renders
it a largely two-dimensional pattern. The second (E) is almost equally indecipher-
able: a close-up of Giornos leg, shot from below. Appearing nearly folded into the
frame, the legs foreshortened lower part occupies the right side of the image, while
the backside of Giornos upper leg and lower buttock, bathed in light, lls the left.
Shot F focuses closely on Giornos head, the right half of which dissolves into
shadow, while shot G cuts off the head at chin level, capturing only Giornos ear,
neck, and the upper part of his chest and shoulder. As in a preview, these six shots
present in sequence all the images to be encountered during the remainder of the
rst reel.
The reels next section presents Warhols method in an almost didactic manner:
the rst two of the six shots (BC) repeat in alternation four times, providing the
viewer with four pairs of closely related but evident repetitions. Warhol then returns
to the original plan of action. Each of the remaining four images appear in order, and
each one as it appears repeats four times. Now attuned to Warhols method, the audi-
ence encounters shot D repeated four times, followed by four repetitions of shot E
and then shots F and G, both likewise quadrupled. Although each image is quite
still, making it possible to mistake a sequence for a single, longer shot, many include
subtle, repeating movements. Shots D and E, for instance, contain a subtle vibration
(perhaps from being shot with a hand-held camera), while at one point in shot F the
camera jiggles as though bumped on a tripod, this shake recurring predictably four
times. In addition, the splices connecting each iteration of shot F are perceptible as
a form of rhythmic return.
While eschewing such didacticism, reel two continues the rst reels sequential
repetition. The rst three shots depict Giornos buttocks, providing the lms most
overtly homoerotic imagery. The rst (H) is the most abstract, the light and shadow
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 31
rendering the image of Giornos left buttock a stonelike circle, almost the inverse of
that formed by his chest in shot D.
34
This shot repeats three times over the course
of twelve and a half minutes, followed by the nexta more distant and legible view
of Giornos backside (I)which repeats six times over just under nineteen minutes.
Both display a slight wavering vibration in the lm grain that passes rhythmically
before the eye. In shot I the light begins to are for just a moment before the splice,
briey allowing sight of Giornos otherwise invisible legs. The following shot (J) is
the sole instance in which an image appears without repetition: a four-and-a-half-
minute extreme close-up centered directly on the cleft between Giornos buttocks,
which the graininess of the image and the attening caused by the light/dark con-
trast render a more ambiguous part object. The fourth and nal image of reel two (K)
is Giornos head, quite visible and clearly legible. This shot (much like, if not identi-
cal to the one Warhol used to produce a freestanding Plexiglas sculpture), repeats
five times over the course of more than twenty minutes. Giornos mouth moves
slightly, and his head at one point moves up and then down. Small camera movements,
eeting glimpses of lm grain, dust, and light ares also draw ones interest for brief
moments, all of which recur, exactly, time and again.
Sleeps third and fourth reels each contain only a single shot, which repeats
throughout their entire duration. Reel three consists of twenty one-hundred-foot
rolls of lm depicting Giorno, from just above the groin, sleeping on his back (L; see
frontispiece). Over each shots four-and-a-half minutes, Giornos lips bulge, reveal-
ing his breathing, his head turns, his breathing becomes faster as though in fitful
sleep, and he moves a bit of sheet between his hip and hand before the roll ares out
at the end. As Giorno dissolves into the light, he seems almost to rise, only to be
returned to the same position as another roll beginsover and over for nearly an
hour and a half. (At two points, after the third and sixth repetitions, a bit of leader
produces a sequence of pure white, black, and then white screen, a nearly structural
lmlike moment of self-reexive materiality.)
In reel four we encounter another close-up of Giornos head (M), facing right as
in reel one. Filling the screen, seemingly crushed against the top of the frame, it allows
little room for the eye to wander. As time passes, recognition and anticipation take
over, making it increasingly difcult to examine details: one waits for known changes
to recur instead of noticing new occurrences. A little more than halfway through,
the shot lightens . . . and then comes the dissolution in a light are, and then the end,
until the sequence recommences: twenty-one times over another eighty-six-and-
a-half minutes.
Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.
Frame enlargement. Reel 1,
shot D. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
32 Grey Room 19
In their unrelenting repetition, reels three and four arrest temporal succession
almost entirely, annulling linear or narrative development as effectively as Warhols
most uniformly gridded silk screens. To this point, Sleep has progressed toward stasis.
The number of images per reel has reduced from seven to one while the length of the
reels has increased twofold, from approximately thirty-seven to eighty-seven minutes.
The overall trajectory has been from variation to uniformity, from a certain degree
of diversity to incessant sameness. In this, Sleep mirrors the operation of the plea-
sure principle, the psychic function Sigmund Freud described as the organisms
tendency toward homeostasis, the reduction of stimuli toward constancy, or the
binding of energy . . . from a freely owing to a quiescent state.
35
Sleep thus seems
to mimic Warhols oft-stated intention to render himself an affectless and uncaring
machine, an operation in which, according to his own testimony, repetition played
an important role. As he explained in Popism, if Im going to sit and watch the same
thing I saw the night before, I dont want it to be essentially the sameI want it to
be exactly the same. Because the more you look at the same exact thing, the more
the meaning goes away, and the better and emptier you feel.
36
Sleeps fth and nal reel recapitulates and amplies the progression previously
encountered. It is the most visually varied reel and is both more actively, and at
times more haphazardly, montaged than the preceding ones. Although only forty-
nine minutes long, Sleeps fth reel is built from 107 separate lm segments, and its
nine separate close-ups of Giornos head contain the most evident movement.
Compared with what came before, reel ve starts out in a somewhat agitated man-
ner. The rst ve shots (NR) mix together more than in any other reel. In relation
to the temporality previously established, the pace here is almost staccato, with
none of the opening shots lasting more than three-quarters of a minute (O) and the
shortest (P) under ve seconds long. Adding to the relatively disorienting beginning
of the reel is the fact that, for the first time, Warhol counters any rhythm by seg-
menting film strips with perceptible irregularity, using fragments of the available
footage in lieu of the entire thing. The rst shot (N), for example, lasts twenty-four
seconds and is followed by a six-second-long repeated fragment. Such irregularities
are particularly evident when they abruptly truncate remembered movements of
Giornos head.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 33
After this relatively active beginning, the pace of the reel progressively slows.
From about thirteen minutes the shot succession calms considerably. With the
exception of a short passage of quickly alternating shots (P and Q, with one appear-
ance of O) at approximately twenty-nine minutes, each image now repeats several
times before substitution. Before it, five appearances of shot N are followed by
eleven of shot S, seven of R, and six of O. The nal eighteen minutes contain only
three shots. The rst (T) repeats ten times over the course of seven minutes; then the
second (U) follows for ten repetitions in just over three and a quarter minutes. The
last (V) recurs twenty times over the final seven-and-a-half minutes of the reel.
Recapitulating the lms previous trajectory, the last reel of Sleepboth within each
shot and within each segment of shot repetitionprogresses from agitation back to
a stasis that is nearly absolute.
Opposite: Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.
Frame enlargement. Reel 5,
shot S. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
Top: Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.
Frame enlargement. Reel 5,
shot U. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
Bottom: Andy Warhol. Sleep, 1963.
Frame enlargement. Reel 5,
shot V. 2005 The Andy Warhol
Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, a
museum of Carnegie Institute.
34 Grey Room 19
It was the observation of compulsively
recurring traumatic dreams that led Freud
to postulate an outside or beyond of the
pleasure principle, a force more primary
and repetitive, the incessant beating of
which he associated with an instinctive
drive toward death. In Death in America,
Hal Foster has examined the manner in
which Warhols repetitionmost notably
in the Death and Disaster paintings he
was producing in 1963operates not only
to screen and reduce affect but also,
simultaneously, to produce something
akin to a trauma of its own. Somehow in
these repetitions, writes Foster, several
contradictory things occur at the same time: a warding away of traumatic signicance
and an opening out to it, a defending against traumatic affect and a producing of it.
37
Despite Warhols previously quoted comments on repetition, Sleep (as already evident
in reels three and four) displays a similar compulsiveness, one that counteracts any
merely aspect-numbing effect; its most repetitive moments produce a frustration or
agitation as viewers nd themselves caught within a time that refuses to advance.
Such multiple concatenations of the effects of repetition reect not only on Warhols
silk screens and Sleep but also on Freudian theory. For despite Freuds conviction that
the two underlying instincts of life and deathEros and Thanatos, the sexual instincts
and those that lead to the death drivewere starkly and dualistically opposed,
neither his analyses nor his speculations ever allowed him to fully and successfully
separate the two layers or functions of repetition. The death drive, it seems, never
manifests itself alone but only in conjunction with the erotic investments it would
supposedly counter.
38
Although the majority of Warhols silk screens of death are
unmitigatedirredeemably gruesome car crashes, detached photographic records
of suicides, and the likethe Marilyn Monroe paintings he began shortly after her
suicide conjugate death and desire within a single portrayal. Warhol would revisit
this combination several times, not only with Jackie Kennedy and Elizabeth Taylor
(first depicted amid rumors of her imminent demise), but with the remarkable
1947 White and its counterpart, both of which, in the same year as Sleep, effectively
desublimate the interrelation of death and desire. Certainly, the resemblance between
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 35
Monroe and the anonymous young womanevident in her perfectly arched eyebrows,
full lips, and high foreheaddid not go unnoticed when Warhol appropriated the Life
magazine image for his monumental silk screens.
39
In Sleep the two aspects of Eros and Thanatos evident in the concatenations of
desire and repetition join on a connotative level as well. For over the course of the
last reel, the eroticized part objects into which Giornos body has been rendered begin
to take on a noticeably morbid character.
40
While all of Sleep is marked by a soft but
highly contrasted lighting, the effect is accentuated in the nal reel, most clearly
coming to the fore in the last ve shots. Beginning in shot P, Giornos face sinks into
extremely dark shadow, melding, in its blackness, fore- and background into a nearly
continuous field. From shot R onward this darkness engulfs Giornos mouth and
eyes so totally that they almost disappear, rendering his face (especially in shot S)
distinctively skull-like.
As the reel progresses, the visual, almost symbolic, evocation of death increases.
In its immobility and the manner in which the light renders Giornos face angular,
almost Gothic, shot R evokes a medieval death mask, the pillow that of a death bed.
With Giornos arm suspended, almost oating, above his head beneath the palpable
and somewhat murky flow of the films grain, shot S connotes the visage of a
drowned man half buried in a dark river bottom. By this point in the lm, Stephen
Kochs relating of Sleep to the Beautiful Male Body in its excruciated nal anguish,
from the Saint Sebastians to Michelangelos Dying Slave, to Gericaults shipwrecked
men writhing on the rafts, to Gustave Moreaus Cecil B. de Mille Babylon in cata-
strophe seems entirely apposite.
41
Indeed, Sleeps penultimate and antepenulti-
mate shots (U and T) appear almost to depict severed heads, not unlike the morbid
anatomical studies Gericault and his followers undertook while painting The Raft
of the Medusa. When, in shot T, the head moves, it seems less animate than uncanny
(especially in its ten repetitions). These two shots also push the lms grainy black-
and-white contrast to a new level. More than merely disembodied, it is as though
Giornos head were disintegrating in a literal illustration of the death instincts push
toward a state of undifferentiated, inanimate matter.
The nal shot of the lm (V) differs visibly from those before it. Giorno appears
lying face up, in a position reminiscent of the woman in 1947 White who herself
appears to be sleeping. Only the lower half of Giornos headnose, lips, and chin
is clearly visible, his left eye only fleetingly glimpsed above the lower edge of the
frame. Although Giorno is still, and the deathly associations are in no way dispelled,
a slow, slightly unsteady camera movement makes his countenance appear to oat
Andy Warhol. 1947 White, 1963.
Silkscreen ink and pencil on linen,
121 x 78 in. Founding Collection,
The Andy Warhol Museum,
Pittsburgh, PA. 2005 Andy
Warhol Foundation for the Visual
Arts/ARS, New York.
36 Grey Room 19
gently. The lighting, too, is markedly different from previous shots, much lighter and
less contrasted, such that Sitney, perhaps the sole commentator to note the differ-
ence in image quality, asserted that it had been rephotographed off the screen. The
previous connotations of death have here been joined to a certain ecstasy. It seems
an almost symbolist moment: Warhol, rather unexpectedly, representing death in
terms of transcendence.
Although unique within Sleep, the motif invoked in the nal shot seems to have
been particularly important. Warhol not only featured it as the lms culmination,
highlighted by the difference in lighting, but provided a closely related lm still to
the Stable Gallery for publicity purposes.
42
And while it is not difcult to nd icono-
graphic precedents for many of Sleeps shots within Warhols voluminous 1950s
drawings of attractive young men in states of languid repose, Warhol seems to have
had a particular reference in mind: his 1955 drawing of James Dean, head thrown
back after his fatal car crash.
Right: Andy Warhol. Sleep,
1963. Film still. Provided to
Art International by the
Stable Gallery. Located in
the photo archives of the
National Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C.
Opposite: Andy Warhol. James
Dean, c. 1955. Ballpoint
pen on paper, 17
5
8 x 11
3
4 in.
Founding Collection, The
Andy Warhol Museum,
Pittsburgh, PA. 2005 Andy
Warhol Foundation for the
Visual Arts/ARS, New York.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 37
As analyzed by Roy Grundmann in
his authoritative treatment of Warhols
lm Blow Job, James Dean is a key image
within the artists early oeuvre, not only
for its interrelation of celebrity, death,
transcendence, and homoerotic desire
(all, as we have seen, equally connoted
in Sleep), but for its relation to the con-
temporary gay male appropriation of martyrdom. Grundmann writes:
In Warhols drawing, James Dean has already gone to heaven as a gay martyr.
Spirituality here has the crucial, far from incidental function of instantly con-
verting the condition of abjectness [socially attributed to homosexuality] into
heroic, sacricial, and ultimately conventional abjectionwhich is precisely
how patriarchy denes the gure of the martyr and which is also . . . how gay
masculinity constructs itself as a coherent identitythat is, by instantly recast-
ing a more radical abjectness. . . . James Dean was part and parcel of an era in
which the white-homosexual-as-suffering-martyr was one of the few images
available to gay men to strategize against the negative image the homophobic
mainstream constructed of them.
43
With its guration of death and disintegration followed by transcendence, Sleeps
final reel follows and reinforces Grundmanns association of Blow Job with the
appropriation and transguration of a socially abjected and pathologized image of
gay male sexuality.
| | | | |
Although Warhol once attributed his approach to taming affect to Eastern philosophy,
his persistent conjugation of death and desire (particularly, identiably homoerotic
desire) is remote from the Zen-like aesthetic of John Cage.
44
Yet, as Warhol was aware,
38 Grey Room 19
in 1963 Cage was not the primary musical figure associated with repetition. That
mantle had been assumed by his younger colleague, La Monte Young. In the June
1963 issue of Harpers Bazaar, Warhol included a photo booth portrait of Young
alongside similar shots of himself, Geldzahler, Larry Poons, Rosalyn Drexler, and
others in the four-page feature, New Faces, New Forces, New Names in the Arts.
Youngs picture was captioned by a quotation in which Cage credited him with the
same transformation he later attributed to Satie: [Young] is able, whether by the
repetition of a single sound or by holding a single sound for twenty minutes, to bring
it about that what I had been thinking was the same thing, is not the same thing after
all but full of variety. I nd his work remarkable.
45
Cage had long known Youngs work, and selected 2 Soundsa lengthy, amplied
tape composition of wood and metal rubbed against glassas the accompaniment
for Merce Cunninghams Winterbranch. By the repetition of a single sound, how-
ever, Cage was referencing Youngs arabic numeral (any integer) (April 1960) to Henry
Flynt, or X for Henry Flynt, which he first heard performed by Toshi Ichiyangi at
Carnegie Hall in 1961.
46
An investigation of the distinction between repetition as an
idea and its performative instantiation, arabic numeral was most often realized by
banging a certain number of cluster tones on the piano keyboard with a forearm.
Invariably, the integer chosen was large, leading the work into the area of extended
duration common to 2 Sounds. Ichiyangi selected the number 566 for its New York
premiere, while Cornelius Cardew, performing the next month in Paris, chose 1698.
Young himself somewhat split the difference, clocking in at 923 repetitions at the
ONCE Festival in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in February 1962. Cage, who immediately
expressed his admiration of the piece to David Tudor (who would also perform it
that February), made it clear in the interview with Roger Reynolds from which his
Harpers Bazaar quotation was taken that this aspect of Youngs production was
quite different from his own up to that time.
47
Although Cage would repeatedly compare the extraordinary effect of Youngs
work to the same change in experience of seeing . . . [as] when you look though a
microscope that he invoked in his discussion of the impossibility of finding two
identical leaves,
48
he nonetheless seemed to have suspected that Young did not
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 39
sufficiently displace repetitions conceptual dimension to release a radical play
of indeterminate, unintentional differences. Where Cage foresaw the possibility of
turning conceptual repetition into difference, Young sought to maintain a dialecti-
cal interaction of conceptual ideal and material instantiation that, to Cages mind,
did not sufciently escape from the traditional, European idea of theme and vari-
ation.
49
For Cage, any residual thematic component to repetition, however minimal,
leads back to the predominance of ideal relationships over the actual material dis-
tinction of each sound in itself.
50
And, indeed, even before the end of the decade,
Young would declare his allegiance to ideas of stasis and control that were at
odds with Cages original understanding of his work.
51
Choosing the same word that
Freud used to describe the death drives compulsive recurrence, Cage termed Youngs
subsumption of repetition beneath the concept xation.
52
A few years later Gilles Deleuze (familiar with the work of Cage, Young, and
Warhol) would characterize the stakes involved. The two types of repetitionrepe-
tition understood as difference (what Deleuze calls covered or clothed repetition)
and repetition that makes reference to a concept or ideal (a brute, bare, or
mechanical repetition)are not diametrically or dialectically opposed.
53
Rather,
for Deleuze as for Cage, clothed repetition is the heart of repetition, and bare repe-
tition comes (in an only seemingly paradoxical manner) to cover it over, annulling
the a-conceptual differences in favor of abstraction and, eventually, generality. The
clothed or differential type of repetition is fundamental and exists within all forms
of repetition; the bare form of repetition, repetition of the same, is a mask, disguise,
or covering over of this more profound, internal, differential repetition. It is by placing
repetition underneath the concept, underneath the structures of thought as repre-
sentation, that the inherent differences become annulled, eradicated, or passed over.
In every way, writes Deleuze, material or bare repetition, so-called repetition of
the same, is like a skin which unravels, the external husk of a kernel of difference and
more complicated internal repetitions.
54
It was, no doubt, in part to make such distinctions evident that Cage was determined
to stage the Vexations concert, a manifesto-like presentation of repetition freed from
the concept. It was perhaps a means of wresting the denition of repetition from Young,
warding off the ambiguity that to Cages mind still inhered in Youngs subordination
to the ideal. Hence, no doubt as well, Youngs decision to decline Cages invitation to
participate, choosing instead to join Warhol in the audience for an experience which
he would later label simply, boring.
55
For Cage, demonstrating such an understanding of repetition was not motivated by
Andy Warhol (layout and
design). New Faces, New
Forces, New Names in the
Arts, Harpers Bazaar 96, no.
3019 (June 1963): 64 and 66.
40 Grey Room 19
mere formal, artistic, or philosophical quib-
bles but was related to concerns arising
from postwar commercialism. These came
to the fore most clearly in Cages antipathy
toward records. An early and enthusiastic
proponent of electronic music and magnetic tape, Cage was by no means opposed
to technology per se. He held, however, that machines should be used as a means of
creating sounds rather than reproducing them.
56
Commercial records, Cage charged,
were useful for nothing other than the extraction of royalties: It would be an act of
charity even to oneself to smash them whenever they are discovered.
57
Although,
given the physical wear of the needle, a record could be understood as being differ-
ent each time it is played, Cage found that the mechanical reproduction of sound
covered over or disguised any such distinctions. Allied with the concept, records
fell on the side of a mechanical repetition that annulled performative differentia-
tions of the type found in Saties Vexations and defeated even Cages most experi-
mental work. Any one of my indeterminate pieces, if recorded, he explained to
Daniel Charles, becomes an object at the moment when you listen to it knowing
that you can listen to it again. You listen again and the object surges forth. There is
repetition; it sounds the same each time.
58
Although long motivated by a critique
of the political economy of music, Cages more explicitly political turn at the begin-
ning of the 1960s led to an increasingly direct confrontation with the commodity
form at a time of its almost dizzying expansion.
59
As he explained to Charles,
In contemporary civilization where everything is standardized and where
everything is repeated, the whole point is to forget in the space between an
object and its duplication. If we didnt have this power of forgetfulness, if art
today didnt help us to forget, we would be submerged, drowned under those
avalanches of rigorously identical objects.
60
It is here that Deleuzes theorization of repetition becomes important, for it reveals
the material basis of Cagean difference. As generality, repetition comes to abstract
and annul a fundamental, prior difference in precisely the same manner in which
abstract labor is extracted from actual, physical processes and exchange value is
extracted from the heterogeneities of use. The interior of repetition is always affected
by an order of difference, writes Deleuze: it is only to the extent that something is
linked to a repetition of an order other than its own that the repetition appears
Right: Rejected cover design for
John Cage, A Year from Monday,
1967. Located in the John Cage
Archives, Northwestern University.
Opposite: Marcel Duchamp.
Rotorelief No. 10: Cage, 1935.
2005 Artists Rights Society
(ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris/
Estate of Marcel Duchamp.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 41
external and bare, and the thing
itself subject to the categories of
generality.
61
Bare repetition is thus
allied with reication. And as such,
Cage explained, once the particu-
larities of existence are extracted and
rendered into a seemingly autonomous world of objects . . . the presence of emo-
tions as linked to those objects can again come to constrain us, an effect which was
but another facet of xation.
62
As commodities, records alienate music from human
production. Hence Cages quip in the Lecture on Nothing: The reason theyve no
music in Texas is because they have recordings in Texas. Remove the records from
Texas and someone will learn to sing.
63
| | | | |
In 1967, when his book A Year from Monday was in press, Cage received a cover
design with a motif of tightly nested concentric circles reminiscent of the grooves
of a record album. Not surprisingly, Cage rejected it. I can see that the jacket design
is interesting, he explained, but I think the direction taken is not in the spirit of my
work which is, relatively speaking, asymmetrical and unfocusedto which he added,
this would work for La Monte Young.
64
As a visual emblem of xation, the cover
calls to mind the targets of Jasper Johns, Cages article on whom appeared in the col-
lection. Also in the book, however, was Cages 26 Statements Re Duchamp, and in
the manner in which the disks shading evokes circular motion the most proximate
reference would seem to be Marcel Duchamps Rotoreliefs.
Although Cage was seminal in exposing an entire artistic generation to Duchamp,
his own reception of the French dadaists production was always selective. Nowhere,
for example, did he discuss the Rotoreliefs. This is particularly surprising because
Cage provided the soundtrack for Duchamps segment of Hans Richters lm Dreams
That Money Can Buy, a kaleidoscopic vision of floating Rotoreliefs. On the other
hand, Cage attributed to Duchamp his own understanding of the repetition in
Vexations, paraphrasing a remark from the Green Box as, To reach the impossibil-
ity of sufcient auditory memory to transfer from one like event to another the mem-
ory imprint.
65
Cage also credited Duchamp with the associated idea of freeing
audiences from imposed artistic preconceptions, an effect he described as trans-
parency. To his mind, Duchamps Large Glass was the paradigmatic instance of an
42 Grey Room 19
art with nothing in it that requires me to look in one place or another or, in fact
requires me to look at all. I can look through it to the world beyond.
66
As Cage made
clear, this business of seeing through opposed what he called the La Monte
Young xation ideal.
67
That Cage proposed to look beyond the figures embedded in the Large Glass is
telling. For in so doing he completely ignored the erotic melodrama gured therein
and foregrounded in its full title, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even.
Cages discomfort before this aspect of Duchamps production would be heightened
by the posthumous revelation of Duchamps Etant donns, a piece that not only lit-
eralized the artists erotic, even pornographic interests, but alsovia the peepholes
in the door through which the nude female gure is seenbecomes an instrument of
literal visual xation.
68
And it is this erotic and desirous side to Duchamps produc-
tion that also manifests itself in the Rotoreliefs, the twist and twirl of which produce
a volumetric effect before the viewers stare. As the spirals appear to protrude and
recede in suggestively thrusting rhythms, they give rise to a metonymic succession
of part objectsabstract, illusory reminiscences of breasts, genitals, or uterine cav-
ities.
69
If Cage was able, contentedly, to collaborate on Dreams That Money Can Buy,
this no doubt resulted from the fact that Richter so fragmented the Rotoreliefs that
their three-dimensional effects and disquietingly carnal associations could no longer
be seen.
70
In 1969 Cage would adopt the same strategy to overcome his antipathy to
musical records: in 33
1
3, stacks of LPs from a variety of genres are played simulta-
neously on multiple turntables, their choice left to the vicissitudes of the audience.
The result is an auditory collage in which, as in Richters lm, the object-quality of
the individual commodities is fragmented and thus avoided.
As Sleep makes clear, Warhol delivered himself over to precisely the types of
fascination or xation Cage ascribed to Young. It is, therefore, perhaps not surpris-
ing to nd that, rather than disdaining records, Warhol listened to rock and roll 45s
almost compulsively. Ivan Karp recalled that during his rst visit to Warhols studio
in 1961, he was playing a rock n roll record, I Saw Linda Yesterday, and he played
it ninety times at incredible volume.
71
Two years later Time magazine similarly noted
that In [Warhols] studio a single pop tune may blare from his phonograph over and
over again.
72
Nor did Warhol shy away from the erotic aspects of Duchamps work.
Indeed, he proved particularly taken with the Rotoreliefs, which he would have seen
in Pasadena if not before.
73
At the time of his death Warhol possessed no fewer than
five complete Rotorelief sets, a wall-mounted unit on which to show them, and a
unique, hand-painted example.
74
Marcel Duchamp, The Bride
Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors,
Even (The Large Glass),
19151923. Oil and lead wire
on glass. 109
1
4 x 69
1
8 in.
Philadelphia Museum of Art:
Bequest of Katherine S. Drier.
2005 Artists Rights Society
(ARS), New York/ ADAGP, Paris/
Estate of Marcel Duchamp.
Photo: Graydon Wood, 1992.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 43
At the Pasadena Art Museum Duchamp exhibition Warhol would also have
encountered Anmic Cinma, a film that seems in retrospect like a particularly
important template or model for Sleep. Featuring the Rotoreliefs and associated
disks inscribed with puns, it consists, like Sleep, of a sequence of xed-frame, static
shots, each of which contains an internally repetitive motion.
75
Like the opening
sequence of Warhols film, where Giornos breathing stomach oscillates among a
range of possible readings, Duchamps turning disks thrust suggestively back and
forward in an indeterminate but eroticized evocation of various part objects. Unlike
Anmic Cinmas length of seven minutes, however, Sleeps nearly six-hour duration
makes it closer to a Rotorelief left on a turntableas though Warhol temporally
44 Grey Room 19
extended the lm of Duchamps optical disks to the lengths attained by his own
repeated listening to rock and roll.
That Warhol brought together commodication and desire, the two aspects of the
Duchamp legacy that Cage all but denied, did not go unnoticed by the composer. As
Cage explained to Alan Gillmor,
In Paris in the 20s we had Dada first, and it was followed by Surrealism. In
Dada is a certain self-abnegation; in Surrealism is a certain self-pronounce-
ment. Now, neo-Dada, which is what we have in New York in the work of
Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, is followed by whats called Pop art,
which is, in another sense, Surrealism. But it is not Surrealism as related to
the individual, but Surrealism as related to society, so that Andy Warhols
work is like Andr Bretons, and we can equate Bretons interest in sex with
Warhols interest in supermarkets.
76
| | | | |
Nowhere, of course, are sex and the commodity more explicitly conjoined than in
pornography. Warhol was a self-confessed pornography enthusiast, professing to
love it precisely on account of its targeted marketing:
Personally, I loved porno and I bought lots of it all the timethe really dirty,
exciting stuff. All you had to do was gure out what turned you on, and then
just buy the dirty magazines and movie prints that are right for you, the way
youd go for the right pills or the right cans of food.
77
However, if there is a pornographic dimension to Sleep, it is not found solely, or per-
haps even primarily, in what Tyler described as the voyeuristic stare of the camera at
its subject. It also inheres in the metonymic, substitutive array of objects of desire
that flicker one after the other across the screen. In other words, Sleep adopts a
certain economy of pornography as much as it invokes the genres primary scopic
modality.
78
As Wolfgang Haug has argued, the capitalist valorization of sexuality leads to a
structure of compulsive voyeurism that is not equivalent to a simple blank stare.
The visual representation of sexuality in advertising or product packaging promises
a form of access and satisfaction that, in the impossibility of actual realization,
inevitably fails. In so doing, it simultaneously disappoints and instigates a renewed
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 45
sexual desire apparently fulllable through yet another representation: The char-
acteristics of this [ersatz] satisfaction through sexual illusion is that it simultane-
ously reproduces further demand alongside satisfaction, and produces a compulsive
xation. . . . Thus a general voyeurism is reinforced, habituated, and determines the
human instinctual structure.
79
It is this more complex, compulsive, commercial structure of voyeuristic xation
that the composition of Sleep seems to emulate. For Warhol, eroticism was not
opposed to commercial culture or the strictures and control that operate through it;
sex and supermarkets, as Cage indicated, are inextricably intertwined. Correcting
an interviewers declaration that we should be aroused from our alienation by
prurient means, Warhol explained: Prurience is part of the machine. It keeps you
happy. It keeps you running.
80
He further elaborated on this type of mechanized,
cinematic sexuality in remarks made to Robert Gelmis. Complementing his earlier
discussion of cinematic desire as being able to eat up the star all you want, Warhol
asked his startled interviewer:
Have you seen any beavers? Theyre where girls take off their clothes completely.
And theyre always alone on a bed. Every girl is always on a bed. And then
they sort of fuck the camera. . . . You can see them in theaters in New York. The
girls are completely nude and you can see everything. Theyre really great. . . .
They dont even have to make prints. They have so many girls showing up to
act in them. Its cheaper just to make originals than to have prints made. Its
always on a bed. Its really terric.
81
Whatever else it opens onto, Warhols fantasy of an unending line of women wait-
ing to be objectiedEtant donns stylefor exhibition in 42nd Street peepshows
reiterates most of the features that we have seen connect Sleep to Anmic Cinma:
the static, xated shot of a single eroticized subject; the rhythmic, repetitive motion
(they sort of fuck the camera); and the metonymic substitution of part objects
(with different womens genitals replacing the fragmented shots of Giornos body).
As if the relation to his own work were not explicit enough, Warhol continued,
Like, sometimes people say weve influenced so many other filmmakers. But the
only people weve really inuenced is that beaver crowd.
82
Despite its closeness to commodity aesthetics and instrumentalized sexuality,
however, Sleep does not merely reproduce such mechanisms. In the rst place, the
lms sheer length and minimization of incident produce an effect of estrangement
on which Warhol always insisted. By disallowing interpellation into a fantasy nar-
46 Grey Room 19
rative, Sleep leads audience members, in Warhols words, to get involved with
themselves and they create their own entertainment.
83
As we have seen, however,
unlike some of Warhols other early lms, Sleep intricately mimics the procedures of
commercialized repetition. While the audience is allowed to eat up the star for as
long as they want, they do so within a format invoking and recalling the structures
of serial consumption that permeate commercial culture at large. Like Warhols silk
screens, however, Sleep also works, simultaneously, to loosen the grip of the com-
modity aesthetics to which it is delivered, as though through a type of overembrace.
As the film unravels through hour after hour of repetition, the vision of Giornos
body as that of an individual or an attainable object of desire is gradually under-
mined. Each repetition leads further from him and further from even the illusory
promise of access that, according to Haug, is a necessary component of the sexual-
ized commoditys appeal. Each recycling of the same movement, each recurrence
of a light flare or particular pattern of film grain, each ending and splice, passing
only to begin again, draws attention away from the depicted subject and toward the
reduplicated, simulacral repetition.
In this courting of the simulacra, the overall trajectory followed by Sleeps first
four reels is once again recapitulated on another level in reel ve. There, the simu-
lacral effect produced by the overall trajectory from variation toward exact repeti-
tion proceeds in tandem with the progressive dissolution of the image within each
successive shot. Whether through the visual decay of Giornos countenance into an
indeterminate eld of black and white or, in the nal shot, through the impression
that one is seeing not an image of Giorno but an image of an image taken from
another screen, the effect is the same: an unlocatable, distanced quality that simi-
larly haunts Warhols silk screensThe sense that there is something out there one
recognizes and yet cant see.
84
Here again Sleep nds its precedent in Anmic Cinma.
For, as Rosalind Krauss has argued, the repetitive pulse of the Rotoreliefs dissolves
the type of abstract wholeness common to both commodity object and gestalt form.
What seems to drive the repetitive pulse of one organ dissolving into the image of
another, she explains of Duchamps turning discs, is a sense of the erosion of good
form, an experience of prgnanz in the grip of the devolutionary forces of a throb
that disrupts the laws of form, that overwhelms them, that scatters them.
85
Warhol was indeed interested in the capacity of the erotic to overcome the stric-
tures of good form. What he liked about reading Genet, he told Swenson, was that
it made you get all hot and in so doing makes you forget about style and that sort
of thing.
86
Warhols own deployment of eroticism, however, as shown perhaps most
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 47
clearly in Sleep, was always densely mediated through the tropes of death and com-
modication. Ultimately it connected them to the operation of the simulacrum, the
capacity of the copy to overturn the original, to rise up in an almost uncanny fashion
and overcome the constraints within which it was generated. It was thus only by
moving through the structure of compulsive fixationrather than avoiding it as
Cage, at all costs, had sought to dothat the outcome of Sleep ultimately comes to
resemble that of Vexations: a certain transformation of the world. In the infinite
movement of degraded likenesses from copy to copy, we reach a point at which
everything changes nature, at which copies themselves ip over into simulacra and
at which, nally, resemblance or spiritual imitation gives way to repetition.
87
48 Grey Room 19
Notes
My thanks to Ted Perry for his comments on and support of this text. My thanks also go to Callie Angell
for invaluable comments given on more than one occasion.
1. Andy Warhol and Pat Hackett, Popism: The Warhol Sixties (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1980), 3545. On Warhol in Hollywood, see David E. James, Amateurs in the Industry Town: Stan
Brakhage and Andy Warhol in Los Angeles, Grey Room12 (Summer 2003): 8093.
2. Warhols shooting of segments of Kiss in the summer and fall of 1963, and its debut, segment by
segment, under the title Andy Warhol Serial is documented in Callie Angell, Some Early Warhol
Films: Notes on Technique, in Andy Warhol: Abstracts, ed. Thomas Kellein (Munich: Prestel, 1993),
7375. The debut of Kiss, at the Gramercy Arts Theater in September, most likely before Warhol left
for California is noted in Jonas Mekas, The Filmography of Andy Warhol, in John Coplans, Andy
Warhol (Greenwich, Conn.: New York Graphic Society, 1970), 146. For the dating of Sleep, see Callie
Angell, The Films of Andy Warhol: Part II (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1994), 1011.
3. Ruth Hirschman, Pop Goes the Artist, Annual Annual 1 (1965): 63.
4. William Bender, A Composition That Lasts All Night, New York Herald Tribune, 8 September
1963, sec. 4, p. 10; Harold C. Schonberg, Richard F. Shepard et al., Music: A Long, Long, Long Night
(and Day) at the Piano, New York Times, 11 September 1963, 45, 48; and Sue Solet, 7 Outlast Music
Marathon, Get Back $3, New York Herald Tribune, 11 September 1963.
5. Jean Stein and George Plimpton, Edie: American Girl (New York: Knopf, 1982), 235; Angell, The
Films of Andy Warhol: Part II, 11; and Callie Angell, Andy Warhol, Filmmaker, in The Andy Warhol
Museum(Pittsburgh: The Andy Warhol Museum, 1994), 124. Billy Name reiterated this information
in an interview with the author on 13 June 1995. Both Cage and the New York Times article reviewing
the event report that only one personidentied in the Times as Karl Schenzerstayed for the entirety
of the concert (Cage, in Stein and Plimpton, 235; and Schonberg, Shepard et al., 48). Sue Solet of the
New York Herald Tribune, however, reported that seven people stayed for the entire performance.
6. Plimptons remarks are recorded in Stein and Plimpton, 235. Malanga and Levine are pictured
in Schonberg, Shepard et al., 45. Malanga cites Cages importance for Warhol in John Wilcock, The
Autobiography and Sex Life of Andy Warhol (New York: Other Scenes, 1971), n.p.
7. G.R. Swenson, What Is Pop Art?: Answers from 8 Painters, Part I, Art News 62, no. 7 (November
1963): 61. Warhol cites Leonard B. Meyer, The End of the Renaissance? Notes on the Radical Empiricism
of the Avant-Garde, Hudson Review 16, no. 2 (Summer 1963): 169186.
8. John Cage, Erik Satie (1958), in Silence (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961),
78. Cage suggested performing Vexations as early as 1951, see Judith Malina, The Diaries of Judith
Malina, 19471957 (New York: Grove, 1984), 189190.
9. Cage, Erik Satie, 78.
10. James Pritchett, The Music of John Cage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993),
135137.
11. Thomas DeLio, John Cages Variations II: The Morphology of a Global Structure, Perspectives
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 49
of New Music 19, nos. 12 (1980/1981): 351371; and Heinz-Klaus Metzger, Music in the Entertained
Society, Interface 12, nos. 12 (1983): 6573.
12. Cage recounts his experience in an anechoic chamber in, among other places, Experimental
Music (1957), in Silence, 8. On Cages notion of silence and repetition, see also my Random Order:
Robert Rauschenberg and the Neo-Avant-Garde (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003).
13. John Cage, Mosaic (1965), in A Year from Monday (Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University
Press, 1967), 48.
14. Cage in Richard Kostelanetz, Conversing with Cage (New York: Limelight, 1994), 222. Although
Cage does not provide a source for his frequently repeated discussion of leaves, it is found in Leibnizs
correspondence with Sophie of Hanover.
15. Stein and Plimpton, 235. See also Kostelanetz, 223.
16. Jonas Mekas, Movie Journal, Village Voice, 19 September 1963, repr. in Jonas Mekas, Movie
Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 19591971 (New York: Macmillan, 1972), 97.
17. Hirschman, 62. Callie Angell has noted the conceptual importance that the idea of an eight-hour
lm seems to have held for Warhol in Angell, The Films of Andy Warhol: Part II, 10.
18. Hirschman, 6263. For reasons that will become clear, Warhol responded that, in fact, Giornos
countenance doesnt change for a long time.
19. Press release for premiere of Sleep at Gramercy Arts Theatre, 1720 January 1964, in Anthology
Film Archives, New York. The release is reprinted in Henry Geldzahler, Andy Warhol, Art International
8, no. 3 (25 April 1964): 35; and Henry Geldzahler, Some Notes on Sleep, Film Culture 32 (Spring
1964), repr. in Film Culture Reader, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Praeger, 1970), 3032.
20. Patrick S. Smith, Andy Warhols Art and Films (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1981), 155.
21. David Bourdon, Warhol (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989), 178.
22. John Giorno, You Got to Burn to Shine (New York: Serpents Tail, 1994), 130. See also Warhol
and Hackett, 3334.
23. Andy Warhol, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again) (New York:
Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), 36.
24. Warhol and Hackett, 109.
25. Warhol, Philosophy, 27.
26. Gretchen Berg, Nothing to Lose: An Interview with Andy Warhol, in Andy Warhol: Film
Factory, ed. Michael OPray (London: British Film Institute, 1989), 5657.
27. Parker Tyler, Underground Film: A Critical History (1969; repr. New York: Da Capo, 1995),
15 passim.
28. Cage, in fact, approvingly referenced Empires night divided frame by frame in Kynaston
McShine, ed., Andy Warhol: A Retrospective (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1989), 427.
29. See, for example, Ivone Margulies, Nothing Happens: Chantal Akermans Hyperrealist Everyday
(Durham: Duke University Press, 1996), 3641; Catherine Russell, Experimental Ethnography: The
Work of Film in the Age of Video (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999), 170; or David M. Lubin,
Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California
50 Grey Room 19
Press, 2003), 3134. Recently Steven Watson has more accurately summarized Sleeps structure.
Watson also puts forward Sara Daltons assertion that she edited the film. Callie Angell, however,
reports that Dalton actually worked on an earlier, unreleased version of Sleep, which has been located
in the archives and is not the version discussed here. Callie Angell, e-mail to author, 11 April 2004.
30. On Sleeps production, see Angell, The Films of Andy Warhol: Part II, 1011.
31. P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 19432000, 3rd ed. (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2002), 349350.
32. Each shot in Sleep has been assigned a letter from A to V. All times are approximate. The fol-
lowing analysis derives in part from the complete shot breakdown of the lm which I performed under
the direction of Callie Angell of the Andy Warhol Film Project at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Sleeps denitive description and analysis await Angells catalogue raison of Warhols lms.
33. The idea of the part object derives from the psychoanalytic theories of Melanie Klein, who
noted the manner in which desirous relations to the bodyinitially of the motherrelate to unstable,
fragmentary sites such as the breast rather than to unied individuals.
34. Giorno notes, Andy got around homophobia by making the movie Sleep into an abstract painting:
the body of a man as light and shadow (133).
35. Sigmund Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle, ed. and trans. James Strachey (New York:
Norton, 1961), 25.
36. Warhol and Hackett, 50.
37. Hal Foster, Death in America, October 75 (Winter 1996): 42.
38. Gilles Deleuze, Coldness and Cruelty, in Masochism(New York: Zone Books, 1989), 109.
39. The combination of death and glamour is also found in the thermofax/poetry collaborations
between Warhol and Malanga such as The Young Mod and To the Young Model, Name Unknown (both
c. 1964).
40. Wayne Koestenbaum gives a not unrelated biographical reading of Sleep in relation to death in
Andy Warhol (New York: Penguin, 2001), 2526.
41. Stephen Koch, Stargazer: The Life, World and Films of Andy Warhol, rev. 3rd paperback ed.
(New York: Marion Boyars, 1991), 135.
42. This still, now located in the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., picture archives, was
provided to Art International and appears (upside down) in Geldzahler, Andy Warhol, 35.
43. Roy Grundman, Andy Warhols Blow Job (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003),
152153.
44. Berg, 60.
45. New Faces, New Forces, New Names in the Arts, Harpers Bazaar 96, no. 3019 (June 1963): 66.
46. Performance information comes from Youngs rsum, a copy of which is located in the John
Cage Archive, Northwestern University Music Library, Champlain, Ill.
47. John Cage to David Tudor (May 1961), in Getty Research Institute, David Tudor Papers, box 13,
folder 2; and John Cage, Interview with Roger Reynolds, in John Cage, ed. Robert Dunn (New York:
Henmar Press, 1962), 52.
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 51
48. Cage, Interview with Roger Reynolds, 52.
49. Cage, Interview with Roger Reynolds, 52. Compare Youngs comments in Richard Kostelanetz,
The Theatre of Mixed Means (New York: RK Editions, 1980), 188189; and Ramon Pelinski, Upon
Hearing a Performance of the Well-Tuned Piano: An Interview with La Monte Young and Marian
Zazeela, 78 1 x 22 4:58:257:15:00 PM NYC, Parachute 19 (Summer 1980): 6.
50. John Cage, Remarks on Theater Song and Ikon (1961), in John Cage: Writer, ed. Richard
Kostelanetz (New York: Limelight Editions, 1993), 88.
51. Young in Kostelanetz, The Theatre of Mixed Means, 187189.
52. Richard Kostelanetz, Conversation with John Cage, in John Cage: An Anthology, ed. Richard
Kostelanetz (New York: Da Capo, 1970), 26.
53. Young saw this as well. When asked which facet of repetition best characterized his work, he
replied that they were not exclusive of one another but rather inextricably interwoven forever.
Pelinski, 8.
54. Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1993), 76.
55. Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain, La Monte Young Interview for Please Kill Me, unpublished
interview transcript, New York, 1995.
56. See, for example, John Cage, A Few Ideas about Music and Film (1951), in John Cage: Writer,
65.
57. John Cage, Erik Satie, in Silence, 7677. Cages opposition to recordings dates back to the early
fties. See John Cage, Lecture on Something (1951), in Silence, 125126; also in Jean-Jacques Nattiez,
ed., The Boulez-Cage Correspondence (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), 5051. Cage
quotes himself from this letter in the Lecture on Something, in Silence, 125.
58. John Cage and Daniel Charles, For the Birds (New York: Marion Boyars, 1981), 79. As Jacques
Attali would later argue, listening was not even necessary. Once the sound had been rendered into a
commodity, it could be stockpiled and collected independent of any perceptual use value. Jacques
Attali, Noise: The Political Economy of Music, trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 1985).
59. On Cages earlier aesthetic, see my A Therapeutic Value for City Dwellers: The Development
of John Cages Early Avant-Garde Aesthetic Position, in John Cage: Music, Philosophy, and Intention,
19331950, ed. David W. Patterson (New York: Routledge, 2002), 135175.
60. Cage and Charles, 80.
61. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 25.
62. Cage and Charles, 147.
63. Cage, Lecture on Nothing (1950), in Silence, 126. Cage continues, Everybody has a song which
is no song at all: it is a process of singing.
64. John Cage letter to Ray Grimaila at Wesleyan University Press, 3 March 1967, in John Cage Archive.
65. John Cage, Diary: Emma Lake Music Workshop 1965, in A Year from Monday, 22.
66. In Moira Roth and William Roth, John Cage on Marcel Duchamp, Art in America 61, no. 6
52 Grey Room 19
(NovemberDecember 1973): 71.
67. Cage, in Richard Kostelanetz, The Theatre of Mixed Means, 5556.
68. Cages perplexity before Etant Donns seems evident in Roth and Roth, 78. Cages selective
appreciation of Duchamp was also noted in Alice Goldfarb Marquis, Marcel Duchamp: Eros, cest la
vie, a Biography (Troy, N.Y.: The Whitson Publishing Company, 1981), 280; and Marjorie Perloff, A
duchamp unto my self: Writing through Marcel, in John Cage: Composed in America, ed. Marjorie
Perloff and Charles Junkerman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 101.
69. Toby Mussman, Anmic Cinma, Art and Artists 1, no. 4 (July 1966): 4851; Rosalind Krauss,
Wheres Poppa? in The Denitively Unnished Marcel Duchamp, ed. Thierry de Duve (Cambridge:
MIT Press, 1991), 433462; and Rosalind E. Krauss, The Optical Unconscious (Cambridge: MIT Press,
1993), 95146.
70. In colour Richter allowed the camera to glide softly by the turning disks, enveloped them in
kaleidoscopic effect with prism lenses, and arranged the disks in variously fragmented views thus
destroying the purely optical effects Duchamp had intended in Anmic Cinma. Mussman, 51.
Interestingly, Cage would later devise essentially the same strategy to deal with Etant Donns. He pro-
posed using the instructions for mounting and demounting the piece as a form of musical score, thus
transforming it into a process that avoided the fixed visual situation. John Cage and Joan Retallack,
Musicage: Cage Muses on Words, Art, Music (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press/University
Press of New England, 1996), 228232.
71. Bourdon, 82. See also Warhol and Hackett, 7; and Mead in Hirschman, 60. This aspect of serial
listening to records is also included in Warhols lm Vinyl where the Martha and the Vandellas song
Nowhere to Run plays through twice to accompany Gerard Malangas dancing. In the lms second
reel, the plot, adapted from A Clockwork Orange, relates such repetition to control and conditioning in
a manner that refers back to the rst reel when it was presented as mere commodity and enjoyment.
72. Pop Art: Cult of the Commonplace, Time, 3 May 1963, 72.
73. Warhol could easily have known of the Rotoreliefs earlier through Geldzahler who owned one
of the sets lent to the Pasadena Art Museum. Marcel Duchamp: A Retrospective Exhibition (Pasadena:
Pasadena Art Museum, 1963), cat. no. 78, n.p.
74. The Andy Warhol Collection: Americana and European and American Paintings, Drawings and
Prints (New York: Sothebys, 1988), cat. nos. 29682972, 2848.
75. Warhols relationship to Anmic Cinma has been noted by Mussman; and Patrick de Haas,
Vider la vue, in Andy Warhol, Cinma (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, 1990), 2224. Mussman
notes only that Warhol is an artist who does lm; de Haas notes the relationship to the xed frame.
76. Alan Gillmor, Interview with John Cage, Contact 14 (Autumn 1976): 21.
77. Warhol and Hackett, 294.
78. Pornography and seriality also come together in Warhols films Blow Job, Couch, and Soap
Opera, among others.
79. Wolfgang Fritz Haug, Critique of Commodity Aesthetics: Appearance, Sexuality and Advertising
in Capitalist Society, trans. Robert Bock (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), 55;
Joseph | The Play of Repetition: Andy Warhols Sleep 53
emphasis added.
80. Leticia Kent, Andy Warhol, Movieman: Its Hard to Be Your Own Script, Vogue 155, no. 3
(March 1970): 204.
81. Warhol in Joseph Gelmis, The Film Director as Superstar (Garden City: Doubleday, 1970), 68.
82. Gelmis, 68.
83. Gelmis, 72. See also Warhols comments to Berg, 58.
84. David Antin, Warhol: The Silver Tenement, Art News 65 (Summer 1966): 58. As reported by
Callie Angell, Sleeps relation to copies without originals inhered deep within its production. Not only
is there no original footage in the edited master (surprising only because Warhol often used original
reversal process stock in that way), but most segments are several generations removed from the shot
footage and sometimes reversed or inverted as though to add further layers of mediation. Angell, The
Films of Andy Warhol: Part II, 11.
85. Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind E. Krauss, Formless: A Users Guide (New York: Zone Books,
1997), 135.
86. Swenson, 61.
87. Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 128.

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