Watch 'Blow Job', Andy Warhol's controversial 1964 short film
(Credit: YouTube / Warhol Foundation)

Watch ‘Blow Job’, Andy Warhol’s controversial 1964 short film

“Art is what you can get away with.”—Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, widely celebrated for his immeasurable contribution to the artistic movement that was Pop Art. His 1964 short film, Blow Job, is an experimental take on the sexual act that manages to convert the profane to the profound and then deconstructs itself to reveal nothing at all. For the entirety of the 36 minutes of screen time, a fixed camera focuses on a man who appears to be on the receiving end of the act in the title. His expression keeps changing, revealing ecstasy as well as boredom, engagement as well as detachment.

The camera never pans out to show the act itself but it doesn’t need to. The film censors itself as if to criticize the strict sensibilities of society at that time. Many newspapers and theatres could not bring themselves to even mention the title of the film, listing it as A Title That Can’t Be Revealed, a film by Andy Warhol, “A title that can’t be mentioned in a family newspaper” or, more directly, B-J.

Warhol famously said that the act was performed by “five beautiful boys”, something which adds another dimension to the short film and makes it a notable addition to the discourse of homosexuality and gay pride. Since the camera never captures the boys performing the act, it somehow works as an artistic statement about the prejudices of heteronormativity. We would never be able to guess if Warhol himself hadn’t specified it, therefore dismantling any bigoted claims about the act itself.

Blow Job challenged the societally constructed idea of sexuality by introducing Queer sensibilities to that very limited framework. The self-reflexive short film remains an important work of art because of the relevance of its political statement as well as the artistic depth of Warhol’s vision. It is an interesting evaluation of the concept of voyeurism and a commentary on the tyranny of censorship.

Watch the controversial short-film here:

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