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Video work. The Empire screening in Vienna

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Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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In 1987 I was given, by Sony, a little video camera, in the fall of 1987 so that I could produce for them some images to advertise the camera and for that they gave me the camera for free. So I though okay, sure if you give me the camera, I have no problems giving you some images. That was the beginning and actually the next week after I got the camera Allen, Allen Ginsberg was here, we had an evening, so he saw it and he got so excited. Actually he went around this place, my, slowly step-by-steps and it took him like 15 minutes and he taped everything, every bookshelf, every, that I want one also, so I called Sony and I said Allen Ginsberg wants one too. They said, sure, you know, we will give him too and we'll get some and as he was just about going to- to- to Israel, he says he will bring some images from Israel. So they did and when Allen came back I said, oh so you now you got some images for them. He said, no, the first evening I was there the camera was stolen from me. So it was stolen. Yeah, so that was the beginning of my video but it's the footage which someday you will see is very different. There is no single frame activity its more on hu- hu- real sounds, real, all real sounds and very much on mood and feeling so sort of people, people, its very, sometimes I permit to run it very long time without interrupting, goes for, actually I have one video 30 minutes long that does not, is not interrupted, its one take, things like that and sort of seeing what one, what happens if, when you don't interrupt.
And some of that material you've already made into,
You have seen, I think, one of the one-hour take that's there, mob of angels, a group of women drummers and dancers.
But there's also the one of Allen Ginsberg's-
I have several and one of the earlier is, is "The Education of Sebastian or Egypt Revisited" which is six hours long, my trip to Egypt with Sebastian from when one end to the other, that's- that's one and I have a lot of short- various short- short pieces. I have one that is called "Autobiography of a Man Who Carried his Past in his Eyes". That's about 45 minutes. There are others.

Jonas Mekas (1922-2019), Lithuanian-born poet, philosopher and film-maker, set up film collectives, the Anthology Film Archive, published filmzines and made hundreds of films, all contributing to his title as 'the godfather of American avant-garde cinema'. He emigrated to America after escaping from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1945.

Listeners: Amy Taubin

Amy Taubin is a contributing editor for "Film Comment" magazine and "Sight and Sound" magazine. Her book, "Taxi Driver", was published in 2000 in the British Film Institute's Film Classics series. Her chapter on "America: The Modern Era" is part of "The Critics Choice" published by Billboard Press, 2001, and her critical essays are included in many anthologies, mostly recently in "Frank Films: The Film and Video Work of Robert Frank" published by Scalo.

She wrote for "The Village Voice" weekly from 1987 into 2001 both as a film and a television critic. She also wrote a column for the "Village Voice" titled "Art and Industry" which covered American independent filmmaking. Her first weekly film criticism job was at the "SoHo Weekly News". Her writing has also appeared in "Art Forum", the "New York Times", the "New York Daily News", the "LA Weekly", "Millennium Film Journal", "US Harpers Bazaar" and many other magazines. She is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the New York Film Critics Online.

She started her professional life as an actress, appearing most notably on Broadway in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie", and in avant-garde films, among them Michael Snow's "Wavelength", Andy Warhol's "Couch", and Jonas Mekas' "Diaries, Notebooks and Sketches".

Her own avant-garde film, "In the Bag" (1981) is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art and the Friends of Young Cinema Archives in Berlin.

She was the video and film curator of "The Kitchen" from 1983-1987.

She has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from N.Y.U. in cinema studies. She teaches at the School of Visual Arts in both the undergraduate and the MFA graduate programs, and lectures frequently at museums, media centers, and academic institutions. In 2003, she received the School of Visual Arts' art historian teaching award.

Duration: 4 minutes, 24 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010