Still lives

A driving force in New York’s film culture since the 50s. Jonas Mekas is exploring uncharted territory. Susanna Beaumont talks to the man who always travels with his


In a still from his film on Warhol. He Slum/s In A Desert ('mm/ing 'I'lie Seconds ()f'His Life, filmmaker Jonas Mekas captures the artist's anaesthetised little- boy-lost look. There is nothing stagey about the scene Warhol is standing in a crowded New York square. Mekas has caught the nuances of a man with

seemingly eternal fame.

Jonas Mekas. whose work is on show at [Edinburgh’s Stills Gallery. has been described as the Samuel Pepys of film. His works are intimate. ! illuminating visual diaries of people and places. Yet i in a recent move from lilmmaking. Mckas now extracts images from his films and enlarges often three consecutive frames. to produce. what he calls. ‘fro/cn stills‘. ‘These images are from my films but they are a by-product. falling between film and photography.‘ he says. ‘I don't know what they mean but I am curious about them.‘ The result is a succession of once animated scenes and faces

silenced. liilmatic memory made still.

Mekas has long occupied a pivotal position in New York‘s filmmaking culture. From underground film screenings in the not -~ he was arrested twice for defying the censors ~ to editing the influential Film (ii/lure .llugun'ne and making his own avant garde films. he was part of band of filmmakers and artists

who made the city"s an scene buzz.

Ask Mekas how he became part of a milieu peopled by numerous icons of the age —‘ fro/en stills of \Varhol along with John Lennon. Jackie Kennedy and

psychiatrists couch.‘

Caught in a crowd: Warhol in New York

Salvador Dali are in the Stills exhibition says that it just happened. ‘lt was easy then.‘ he say s. ’I didn't go searching for Warhol. he came to me. watched me filming and picked up ideas.’ Mekas goes on to describe Warhol as a man of unique personality: ‘He was open. quiet and without

‘Warhol was open, quiet and without criticism. That’s why people flocked to him, like a psychiatrist’s couch.’

criticism. That's why people flocked to him. like a

.‘yiekas arrived iti New York in l‘H‘) from a war battered and bruised Europe. He had fled his

and he

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Sidewalk talking: Warhol with John Lennon

Power people

There is nothing like a friendly artistic scrap, especially in the genteel surroundings of the inaugural Glasgow Art Fair. At Transmission Gallery’s brightly lit stand, Toby Webster and Eva Rothschild - two committee members from the gallery - hardly needed to raise their voices before they were plumbing the depths of the

number one debate post-opening of

Glasgow’s Gallery of Modern Art: The

Power Of The Curator.

Sharply contrasting the methodology

behind the city’s newest art shrine, all Transmission’s 220 members have recently been invited to contribute work to Art For People and Webster is clear about the intended result.

‘There is no curator, everything goes in and hopefully it will be quite punky. We are relying on our membership to say what is happening at the moment, but rather than just arriving and putting up a pristine show, hopefully people will come up with ideas on the spot. Like last year’s summer shows they should be on the edge . . . a bit off the wall.’ But this last statement of intent was too much for Rothschild. ‘llo, no, no . . . don’t say that. We do not reflect membership. The show will reflect them’ says Rothschild. With gallery membership open to anyone with a spare fiver, this intended

egalitarianism is rarely seen in an art world regularly shredded by conflicting motives and values.

‘We have a lot of new members and we don’t know what they do,’ says Rothschild. ‘This show will allow them to develop a closer relationship with the gallery. I think some people are a bit daunted by Transmission, but doing a large group show helps overcome that. How can someone still be daunted when they are part of Art For People, or one of their friends is?’

Although Transmission was established to give new local artists the opportunity to hang alongside the work of more established names, Rothschild admits the gallery has still managed to develop an exclusive image. ‘In a way, we are doing a show which is the complete opposite,’ she

says emphasising that ‘Transmission is not a closed shop.’ The cellar space at the gallery has

3 recently been renovated and the five-

strong committee also welcomes proposals for developing work in this new space which is open throughout the year. For members and non- members alike, could this be an example of avoiding the back door and creeping into public view via the foundations?

“To an extent this is an experimental space. The cellar gives people a chance to work on their own without a big fanfare upstairs. We need new work all the time just mark your envelopes I Love Cellars.’ (Paul Welsh) Art For People is at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow from Tue 14—Saf 25 May.

The List 3-16 May 1996 71