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The controversial trees at 80 Wooster Street


Walden and Thoreau
Jonas Mekas Film-maker
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The title Diaries, Notes and Sketches, that came very early. That was always there, but then there was always the second title, one for some time was Dedicated to Dziga Vertov. Then, at some point, I don't know how, as I was making final sort of question, I thought that more to Thoreau than to Dziga Vertov so I decided that Walden. The more that, you know, I realised that I'm very obsessed with Nature in the city, that there is not that much snow in New York that my film of New York is full of snow and not that much of Nature in general, but my film always takes Nature. So, that is where Walden comes in. Thoreau was an amazing person really. Just a few years ago it came out some of his other note books where... notebooks on various plants and his... that he kept notes as he's passing, walking every day, that this plant, this flower is in that state, now she's almost to bloom and then three days later, ah, it's blooming already. I mean, he kept record of things around him so incredibly detailed, amazing, amazing. Yeah, that is my Walden. New York is my Walden. I mean, you don't have to be in the middle of a forest, a countryside to be in Nature.

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: Diaries, Notes and Sketches, Dedicated to Dziga Vertov, Walden, New York, Henry David Thoreau

Duration: 2 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2003

Date story went live: 29 September 2010