Staff Picks: Jonas Mekas

Staff Picks: Jonas Mekas


Jonas Mekas, Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (clip), 1964. Courtesy of the  Jonas Mekas Estate and Re:Voir.

December 1, 2023
Staff Picks: Jonas Mekas
Award Presentation to Andy Warhol
December 1–31, 2023
Instagram / Facebook

e-flux Film is thrilled to present the December 2023 edition of our monthly series Staff Picks, featuring Jonas Mekas’ film Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (1964). This 12-minute work captures a unique moment in the history of American avant-garde cinema and the vibrant atmosphere of Andy Warhol’s Factory.

The relationship between Jonas Mekas and Andy Warhol went beyond their collaborative works, such as Mekas’ role in shooting Warhol’s first film, Empire (1962). Mekas played a pivotal role in championing Warhol’s avant-garde films, significantly contributing to their wider recognition. He organized Warhol’s film screenings, wrote extensively about them, and distributed them through the Film-Makers’ Coop. In 1964, Andy Warhol was honored with the sixth annual Independent Film Award from Film Culture magazine (edited by Mekas) for his Sleep, Haircut (No. 1), Eat, Kiss, and Empire. Rather than attending a public ceremony, Warhol opted for a more personal approach towards the presentation of the award. Jonas Mekas recalls the story behind Award Presentation to Andy Warhol with vivid detail: 

“In 1964 Film Culture magazine chose Andy Warhol for its annual Independent Film Award. The plan was to show some of Andy’s films and have Andy come on stage and hand him the award. Andy said, no, he didn’t want a public presentation. So I decided to hand him the award at the Factory, film the occasion, and show the film at the Award Presentation show at the New Yorker Theater. Andy thought it was a good idea. He got some of the superstars together for the occasion. I was on my way to the Factory with three rolls of film when I remembered that I had nothing to present to Andy. So on the corner I bought a basket of mixed fruit. It was presented to Andy by Ivy Nicholson’s little son. Some of the others present: Baby Jane Holzer, Gerard Malanga, Ivy Nicholson, Naomi Levine, Gregory Battcock, Kenneth King. Gregory Markopoulos happened to be there, so he operated the Bolex when I wasn’t. Gregory is in the film, too, since the camera was motorized. I slowed down the film in the printing as a form of tribute to Andy: most of his films–actually all the films from that period–were projected at 16 frames per second, though they were shot at 24. I did the same thing, but I had to do it by means of optical reprinting because I wanted to add sound to the film: Supremes music which was the daily background at the Factory during those days.” 

This edition of e-flux Staff Picks is co-presented by the Jonas Mekas Estate and Re:Voir.

The film will stream on e-flux Film from December 1 through December 31, 2023. 

Watch it here.

About the filmmaker
Jonas Mekas (b. 1922, Semeniškiai, Lithuania) was a filmmaker, poet, teacher, and archivist. After escaping a Nazi labor camp in Germany with his brother Adolfas (1925–2011), Mekas attended the University of Mainz, where he studied philosophy. In 1949, the brothers were given status as United Nations refugees and were relocated to New York City, where before long Mekas would start making films, soon becoming a part of the film community and one of the major influences in a culture that he would dub New American Cinema. In 1954, together with his brother, Mekas started the landmark Film Culture magazine, and in 1958 began his legendary Movie Journal column in the Village Voice. In 1962 he founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, and in 1964, the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, a screening venue and one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of avant-garde cinema. Throughout his life, Mekas made over sixty films and film installations that have been shown in musuems and festivals worldwide, and he is largely credited for developing the diaristic forms of cinema. He is the author of more than twenty-five books of prose and poetry, which have been translated into over a dozen languages and are considered classic works of literature in his home country, Lithuania. On January 23, 2019, Mekas passed away at the age of 96 at his home in Brooklyn.

About the series
e-flux Film’s Staff Picks is a monthly streaming series of staff picks and recommended videos designed to disrupt the monotony of an algorithm. Before the end times of big data, we used to discover suggested content along dusty shelves in video rental stores, where Post-it notes scribbled by shift workers implored us to experience the same movies that made them guffaw, scream, or weep. Sometimes the content bored us, sometimes it overwhelmed us, and sometimes, as if by magic, it was just right. e-flux invites you to relive this rental store mode of perusal, with personalized picks curated through judgment that does not take into consideration your viewing history.

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December 1, 2023

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