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Nam June Paik sends shockwaves


Andy Warhol's joke
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol. I met him during the period of my life of Park Avenue South the where the... 414 Park Avenue South and my work for the Film-makers' Cooperative had sort of established itself and most of the local film-making community was... you could find them every evening but in the '60s during that period and were talking about '62, '63, there was a very close relationship between painters, poets, they knew each other, they... they... and when... you could see in the same room sometimes, you know, Allen Ginsberg and... and Gregory Markopoulos and Robert Frank, and Ed Sanders and there was a variety of... and some music people and some personalities that already were much, you know, completely somewhere else, like Salvador Dali.

So that is where, more or less, I met Andy although it took me some time to recognise him and somebody had to introduce me, but, in short, that's where it begins. And I was starting already the Film-makers' Showcase the Gramercy Arts Theatre just around the corner, and that is where Andy used to bring next, like, installments of his Kisses, they were running three minutes-and-a-half or so, slow speed, but one roll shot on motorised Bolex and there were... Those Kisses preceded the regular programme and they were very much awaited and somewhere there in, like, mid '63 we premiered Sleep. Some people say it just some joke, it's somebody invented, but it's not an invention I really had tied him up and... Andy came and I tied him with a rope to the seat and said, 'You cannot escape, you have to see it yourself, it's six hours long, of course, he escaped because he had seen the film. It was a joke. But there, I think, during that screening I also, for the first time, met Harry Smith and probably you were there too. I bet... in your furry coat, you still have that, I'm talking to Amy Taubin.

So it was a very important event and from then there on I moved to other spaces, screening spaces to the Astor Place or where another series of... we had screenings there for a year-and-a-half, so a good number of the early Warhol films silent and sound were sort of shown, seen for the first time and we continued, of course. He was very helpful in... when I acquired a courthouse building for Anthology and had to raise money. He was very helpful and I was putting together a portfolio in which he participated and so here is an anecdote, a little anecdote on Andy and his prints.

So he said, 'Okay, what do you want, what kind of image?' 'Maybe shoot it from a film?' 'Oh, that's a good idea. So why don't you select like some frames, go through Chelsea Girls and select some frames and then show me what you've selected'. So I went through it and selected some frames and bring them to Andy. 'Oh, that's okay, make some copies'. So I take to the printer, make some larger copies. He looks. 'Oh, they all look interesting'. So then I take it to his favorite print maker to produce prints already, a large 20x30 inches prints of different... he chose the image, that's okay, maybe this one? So I produce six or seven variations, sort of different, I ask the printer for slightly different colours and I take them to Andy and say, 'Here are the tests'. So I lay them all out, so he looks at them, said, 'I don't know, but... you know, all these...', and it happened so that they were like five or six of his clients from Europe, from Munich, there was one from Munich, I knew some names, I forgot. He looks at them and said, 'You... you are buyers, you decide'. And he walks out. So now I wish I would have taped this, and those buyers, those clients those collectors of his work began their discussions, you know, which one, you know what, which one we should chose? Which one would sell best? Which one? And it was very interesting because they were not so, you know, dumb, and what eventually came down to that: 'Oh, those are to go, those are like television colours, those are... that's what Andy likes very much, let's choose this one that Andy wouldn't choose'. And so then Andy comes back. 'So which one?' They said, 'This one'. He looks at it. 'Oh, okay, good'. So that's... that was the print that I included in the portfolio. He was very open to suggestions from other people.

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.

Tags: Kisses, Sleep, Chelsea Girls, Andy Warhol, Harry Smith

Duration: 7 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010