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Survivalist politics


Exposure to art
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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The first books with reproductions of art, I saw in the fifth, sixth grade. The teacher pulled out some big books from the bottom of the closet there in the classroom. They were all in, from Renaissance, that period, somewhere there, I remember and they were all in black and white, no color. But they left me a great impression that, on very, on very bad paper, very badly reproduced, in black and white, but there was still strength and mystery and, and something there that you, that came through despite all that bad paper, bad ink, bad, no color. And later, many years later, I saw originals, some of them, and the originals did not impress me that much more than when I saw them in those miserable reproductions when I was 14, 15 years old. And that's the, one of the, you know, argument, arguments is, you know, argument that one could... it's a subject that when we talk about original film or film or the same film on video you see, to me, that no matter how you, if something is really good then you cannot destroy it, no matter what you do to it, it's still something comes through. Not all of it, but there is some aspect that is still is, remains there and comes in a factual and it does something to you.

[Q] When you say they were basic illustrations of renaissance paintings?

Yes, some reproductions, I do remember the Durer, those I can see, and I don't exactly remember now but some of them, more known of course Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, you know, that's what they showed to schools.

[Q] And then?

And then we jumped from those reproductions because there was nothing that you could see in Lithuania, only, after the war already in Wiesbaden, when the American army collected some of the plundered stolen works and the... from the... Europe's museums that Germany, German, Hitler's Nazi Germany had done and they exhibited them in '47 in Wiesbaden in a huge, huge space that you could see a lot of original, original art from all of the periods where, for the first time, I could see some of the originals.

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: Leonado da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Hitler, Germany

Duration: 3 minutes, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008