Artist and personality Andy Warhol is known for his vibrant pop-art in mediums that ranged from silkscreen to film. In 1982, Warhol himself appeared as an artistic subject in the film 66 Scenes of America, directed by Danish filmmaker Jørgen Leth. In his scene, Warhol sits in a featureless room with a paper bag. It’s emblazoned with the Burger King logo, and a bottle of Heinz ketchup sits beside it.
Watching Warhol unbox a Whopper and silently eat it is as perplexing as the artist himself. Early on, he has trouble with the glass ketchup bottle, shaking it furiously and muttering, “It doesn’t come out.” At one point, he dismantles and folds his burger to make it even more dippable in the ketchup he’s poured himself.
Warhol doesn’t finish the burger. Instead he bundles it back into its wrapper and container, crumples the mass of cardboard into a neat ball, and shoves the burger and ketchup bottle off to the side. After long moments of gazing at the camera, he utters the should-be-immortal phrase, “My name is Andy Warhol, and I just finished eating a hamburger.” Actually, Warhol was disappointed that the burger wasn’t from McDonald’s. Not out of any sense of brand loyalty, but, as Leth recalls Warhol saying, because the packaging had the nicest design.
The appearance of Warhol with a fast-food burger and ketchup shows the artist’s fascination with iconic brands. The other 65 scenes in the film are also visually meaningful, showing wide shots of American scenery, juxtaposed with people doing everyday things across the United States. Leth described the project as a series of filmed “postcards.” (You can watch the whole thing here.)
Warhol’s burger-eating scene is one of the most evocative clips, and, because of the lengthy, post-burger pause, it’s one of the longest. Later, the director explained that the pause hadn’t been intentional. Warhol had simply been waiting for the cue to say his line.
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