Item 11 in Aspen no. 3, the Pop Art issue, is The Plastic Exploding Inevitable, the Factory’s one-shot underground newspaper, which includes the following from Jonas Mekas:
The terror and desperation of CHELSEA GIRLS is a Holy Terror
No doubt most of the critics and “normal,” audiences will dismiss such films as Chelsea Girls as having nothing to do either with cinema or “real” life. It is becoming apparent that there is a complete misunderstanding about the role of the artist in a society. Some critics would like to relegate him to some sweet and innocent corner of our life. Most of the critics and viewers do not realize that the artist, no matter what he is showing, is mirroring or forecasting also our own lives. The terror and desperation of Chelsea Girls is a holy terror (an expression which, I was told, Warhol himself uses in reference to his work): it’s our godless civilization approaching the zero point. It’s not homosexuality, it’s not lesbianism, it’s not heterosexuality: the terror and hardness that we see in Chelsea Girls is the same terror and hardness that is burning Vietnam and it’s the essence and blood of our culture, of our ways of living: this is the Great Society.
Those who hate or dismiss Warhol’s work because of this terror in it, hate it for what they should really praise in it: for being able to portray some essential truths about ourselves. As I have said a number of times before: it’s not the artist that is failing today: it’s the critics that are failing by not being able to explain the real meaning of art to man. These works, once understood and embraced, would become rituals of Holy Terror, they would exorcise us from terror.
— JONAS MEKAS writing in the
Village Voice, Sept. 29, 1966.