Performing Invisibility in Public

“Performing Invisibility in Public: Queer Opacity in Andy Warhol’s Thirteen Most Wanted Men (1964) and Lecture Tour (1967)”

Presented at “Art in Public Life/The Public Life of Art”
Yale, April 1, 2017

Over the course of its three iterations, Warhol’s Thirteen Most Wanted Men oscillated between a counter-surveillant public protest and an institutionally regulated, censored artwork. Reading the mural alongside Warhol’s Lecture Tour, this talk traces the ways in which both pieces stage the vulnerabilities of public exposure for nonnormative subjects; anticipating contemporary aesthetics of counter-surveillance emerging within conditions of ordinary crisis.

After arranging speaking engagements at four college campuses in 1967, Warhol sent a decoy to impersonate him and deliver the talk, “Pop Art in Action,” in his stead. His doppelganger, actor Alan Midgette, presented incoherent addresses and declined to respond to audience inquiries. Rerouting spectators to an unintelligible avatar, this gesture of self-concealment offers a rubric for tactical responses to public encounters with institutional power.