Having recently (several weeks ago) been involved in a very unpleasant experience involving a sort of impromptu screening I put on of several works (Anger, Brakhage, etc., for accessibilities sake projected on video rather than film, for free of course) in a public area (i.e. library) in hopes of gauging the possibility of putting on a more official screening (ON FILM), and having just re-read Jonas Mekas’ enthralling Movie Journal..., I thought I would post one of his columns that relates in part to said incident (the lack of specific detail is intentional, but if anyone were perhaps aware of the cultural climate I currently reside in further light would be shed):
Sept. 2, 1965
THE HUMAN BODY AND CINEMA
What is this 'pornography,' 'obscenity,' 'blue movie' business?
The human body, unclad and naked, has been often and uninhibitedly (or, truer--aesthetically) portrayed in painting and sculpture. It disappears, sometimes, for a generation or two, and reappears again. It disappeared, partially, with the coming of Cubism, during the period of abstract explorations; now it's coming back. Each time it comes back, it comes as a new discovery, as if the artist had never seen a naked body in his life. He doesn't know how to deal with it aesthetically; subject matter takes over form. Only slowly the balance is regained, the subject mastered, the ways of dealing with it aesthetically are found.
Cinema is entering this naked stage for the first time. The film artist did not know how to deal with the naked body so he stayed away from it. Not that he didn't really know how to deal with it: There was, apparently, no real urgency for it. Cinema had its hands full with the exploration of other aspects and areas of reality. Cinema was looked at as basically naturalistic art--and who walks streets naked? So he concentrated all his lights, all his shadows, lenses, and ingenuity on the only naturalistically possible open area: the face, with an occasional ankle, or a neck line, or --daringly!-- a leg.
The renaissance of the poetic cinema during the last few years broke down the barricades of naturalism. The avant-garde artist, the new poet mastered new techniques and approaches which now enable him to put on film poetically and filmically some of the 'untouchable' reality, including the body. Against the screams of the majority of the public, the artist proceeds to reveal to that public (and to himself) the beauty of the world that surrounds us. We can safely say now that the first and perhaps most important ground work in this area--in the aesthetic use of human body in cinema--has been laid down. It can be seen in the work of Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, Ron Rice, Gregory Markopoulos, Robert Nelson, Jack Smith, Bill Vehr, Naomi Levine, Barbara Rubin (and, some years earlier, in the work of Willard Mass). In some of the cases it is being used decoratively, in others dramatically, in still others phenomenalistically.
Newspapers and magazines, for their own perverted reasons, have often accused the new cinema of being too preoccupied with 'pornography' --by which they mean the human body. Nakedness in most cases is identified with pornography. The poetry escapes them. The beauty escapes them. Venus herself, in cinema, should be clad, they tell us. A culture of penis without Venus.
The public (and the film-maker) should not let themselves be distracted and confused by an irresponsible press. There is a tradition of human body in art, and our work continues that tradition, although with natural and unaccustomed changes called for by the implicit qualities of the film medium. Cinema is (or will be) revealing different aspects of the body from those sculpture or painting reveal. It is true that cinema doesn't yet know all of the aesthetic possibilities of this new subject, in terms of the medium--but the subject is there. As with every newly discovered subject, there is much empty and excited running around--but that doesn't change the historical importance of what's happening, of what's going to happen. It's part of the larger revolution that is taking place in us.
These artists are working with no real precedent--there are no real masters to learn from in their own art, as far as the naked body goes--they are the first masters. Many mistakes are being committed and all for the good. Let the gentlemen and ladies scream: It will do them some good, they have to scream out their own ugliness. Time will pass, like this summer is passing, and they will call us 'classics,' and our children will be amazed and wonder what all that noise was all about.
After again having breezed through the compilation, its hard to imagine such confrontational (at times) and inspiring columns appearing in what was at the time a very influential publication. I suppose for many this could serve as some sort of very distant relative of the blog, but I imagine you would be very hard-pressed to find one written with the mastery, poetry, insight and vitality contained on these pages.