Herb Shellenberger

My Friends! The Life and Work of Jonas Mekas symposium
April 20, 2013
International House Philadelphia
Philadelphia, PA, USA

Part of The Cinema is Jonas Mekas
Panel discussion with Jonas Mekas, Amy Taubin, Jackie Raynal and Ed Halter, moderated by Andrew Lampert.

This discussion will utilize expert panelists, each of whom has a different connection to Mekas’ life and work. They will share their perspectives on his film and video practice, the influence he has had on moving image culture and how he became the central figure in American independent film.

Jonas Mekas was born in 1922 in the farming village of Semeniškiai, Lithuania. In 1944, he and his brother Adolfas were taken by the Nazis to a forced labor camp in Elmshorn, Germany. After the War, the UN Refugee Organization brought both brothers to New York City. Two weeks after his arrival he borrowed money to buy his first Bolex camera and began to record brief moments of his life. He soon got deeply involved in the American Avant-Garde film movement, creating Film Culture magazine, the Movie Journal column in the Village Voice, the artist-run distribution collective the Film-Makers Cooperative, and Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of and venues for avant-garde cinema. During this time he completed 20 books of poetry and over 74 films varying from 4 minutes to 284 minutes in length. His film Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania has been selected for preservation by the Library of Congress when it was added to the National Film Registry in 2006.

Andrew Lampert is a filmmaker and Curator of Collections at Anthology Film Archives. Lampert is at the forefront of a new generation of artists engaging with film, video and performance, revisiting and extending the dialogue around an expanded cinema. Over the last decade his works have been widely exhibited at festivals, in cinemas, in galleries, performance venues, museums and elsewhere.

Amy Taubin is a film critic and current contributing editor to both Film Comment and the British magazine Sight & Sound. She was the film and television critic for The Village Voice from 1987 to 2001. She has also written regularly for Millenium Film Journal and Artforum. She has appeared in many notable avant garde films including films by Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol, Yvonne Rainer and Michael Snow. Her film In the Bag is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and has been preserved by Anthology Film Archives with the support of a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation. From 1983 to 1987, Taubin was the curator of video and film at the non-profit experimental performance space The Kitchen. She is the recipient of an “Art Historian/Teacher Award” (2004) at the School of Visual Arts where she teaches.

Jackie Raynal is a filmmaker and film curator born in France. She made her directorial debut in 1962 with a short film documenting the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Her 1969 feature film Deux Fois won the Grand Jury Prize at the Toulon Film Festival (1969) and the Grand Prize at the Hyères Festival (1972). The short New York Story won the Grand Prize (Golden Boomerang) at the 1981 Melbourne Film Festival. She was a principal member of the Zanzibar Group, a collective of filmmakers making radical films in France in the 1960s-70s. Moving to NYC in the 1970s, she was film curator at the Bleecker Street and Carnegie Hall Cinemas until the 1990s. Raynal has recently completed a number of documentaries on filmmakers, including the 2000 short documentary, Notes on Jonas Mekas.

Ed Halter is a critic and curator living in New York City. He is a founder and director of Light Industry, a venue for film and electronic art in Brooklyn, New York, and his writing has appeared in Artforum, The Believer, Bookforum, Cinema Scope, frieze, Little Joe, Mousse, Rhizome, Triple Canopy, The Village Voice and elsewhere. He is a 2009 recipient of the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, and his book From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games was published in 2006. From 1995 to 2005, he programmed and oversaw the New York Underground Film Festival, and he has curated screenings and exhibitions at Artists Space, BAM, Institute of Contemporary Art, London, The Museum of Modern Art, and Tate Modern, as well as the cinema for Greater New York 2010 at MoMA PS1 and the film and video program for the 2012 Whitney Biennial. He teaches in the Film and Electronic Arts department at Bard College, and is currently writing a critical history of contemporary experimental cinema in America.