Andy Warhol’s film Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger is riddled with equally amusing and perplexing intricacies. After taking apart his hamburger, in preparation for consumption, he puts the ketchup to the side of the foil, rather than on top of the open-faced bun as expected. At another moment, Andy breaks from his otherwise consistent expression of apathy, suppressing a smirk as he struggles to dole out ketchup. “It won’t come out,” he says, perhaps amused at the cleverness of his own project. Having disposed of his half-finished burger, Warhol contends himself to staring blankly off screen, his eyes occasionally flitting past the camera. We get the sense that he’s waiting for something, although it’s unclear what. He opens his mouth, only to close it again. As the viewer becomes increasingly agitated in a state of bewildered suspense, the film builds to an irresolute climax, with Warhol’s proclamation: “My name is Andy Warhol and I just ate a hamburger.”
Of Andy Warhol’s countless “documentary” films, Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger is perhaps the most enduring and relevant today. Aspiring to make films about “nothing,” Warhol used mundane subjects as a guise to address themes much larger than their simple titles suggest. In the case of Andy Warhol Eating a Hamburger, one would not be wrong to take the film at face value, or as a joke on the art establishment. But given Warhol’s fascination with religion, particularly Catholicism, one could just as easily argue that Warhol is documenting what he sees as familiar religious elements within America’s ritualistic fast-food consumption. Only, instead of achieving nirvana, he appears utterly apathetic and indifferent. Whether intentional or consequential, Warhol captures visually what many think of as incorporeal phenomena: culture, fame, celebrity, and time. Whether you love it or hate it, Warhol wanted to make sure that you saw it, and to that end we’re pushing his agenda.