The acquisition of my tape recorder really finished whatever emotional life I might have had, but I was glad to see it go. Nothing was ever a problem again, because a problem just meant a good tape and when a problem transforms itself into a good tape it’s not a problem any more. An interesting problem was an interesting tape. Everybody knew that and performed for the tape. You couldn’t tell which problems were real and which problems were exaggerated for the tape. Better yet, the people telling you the problems couldn’t decide any more if they were really having the problems or if they were just performing.
During the 60s, I think, people forgot what emotions were supposed to be. And I don’t think they’ve ever remembered. I think that once you see emotions from a certain angle you can never think of them as real again. That’s what more or less has happened to me.
I’m sure others have highlighted this Andy Warhol observation, which anticipates a common feeling about social media. The idea that the “reality” of problems stands in contrast to how they are performed doesn’t really make sense anymore. The performance is already built into the problem; now something is not a problem unless it can be performed. Whether performing it well solves it is a different question. Perhaps there is relief in the distance one gains from oneself by performing oneself, particularly when one feels beset by problems. A world in which problems are replaced by performances is almost utopian.
I wouldn’t argue that emotion is not real or that people have “forgot what emotions were supposed to be,” but rather that people are confronted with the fact more clearly that emotions are relational and not proprietary. They happen between people; i.e. “affects circulate,” whereas emotions were “supposed to be” some spontaneous expression of the inner truth about an individual. If we forgot that definition, it’s for the best since it was never the case.
Just because an emotion is performed doesn’t mean that it is not “real.” Spontaneous reactions can be false. I think Warhol is saying that he has done away with the fetish of spontaneity.