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.
Uptown Party and Velvet Underground’s First Appearance. See also Velvet Underground’s First Public Appearance at jonasmekasfilms.com (one of Mekas’ The First 40 collection). The description places the VU performance at a “Psychiatrists Convention” and the party footage at the apartment of Stephen Shore.
The convention was in fact the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry’s 43d annual dinner at Delmonico’s Hotel.
Three quotes from The New York Times’ report the following day (which can be read in full here):
“The Chic Mystique of Andy Warhol,” described by an associate of the painter as “a kind of community action-underground-look-at-your-self-film project,” was billed as the evening’s entertainment … And until the very last minute, neither group quite believed the other would show up.
“I suppose you could call this gathering a spontaneous eruption of the id,” said Dr. Alfred Lilienthal. “Warhol’s message is one of super-reality,” said another, “a repetition of the concrete quite akin to the L.S.D. experience.” “Why are they exposing us to these nuts?” a third asked. “But don’t quote me.”
The evening ended with a short talk by Jonas Mekas, film director and critic. But long before that, guests had begun to stream out.
Jonas Mekas, Films – Vidéos – Installations (1962 – 2012), Catalogue raisonné:
A small port in south of France, a lighthouse, the sea.
The year was 1966. The month of July. I was visiting Jerome Hill. Jerome loved France, especially Provence. He spent all his summers in Cassis. My window overlooked the sea. I sat in my little room, reading or writing, and looked at the sea…
Jerome Hill, ibid:
The 24 hours that pass over the Cassis landscape take only a few minutes in this episode, but, during that time, the sea, the sky and mountain are brushed in by a mighty hand; boats and people are animated otherwise than in daily life. The effect is at the same time uncanny and yet immediately recognizable as belonging to the artist’s inner vision. One is elated. One laughs without its being funny.