Jonas Mekas – (October 1987 – Allen Ginsberg)

From October 1987 – from Jonas Mekas’ Video Diary.    See here for the Video Diary

Allen reads from Cosmopolitan Greetings,  despite the indifference of little Sebastian, in Jonas Mekas‘  studio/loft/home. Allen takes over the camera and, with curious and roving eye, surveys the work-space of Jonas, impresario of the Anthology Film Archives, “pack rat of the avant-garde”.

“I seem to be making an inventory of your apartment.”, he declares. “I don’t suppose you have done this yet have you? No? Well this might be interesting – But there’s “all kinds of junk”, insists Mekas – “No, it’s just the inventory of how you work.”

Approximately fifteen-and-a-half minutes in, Jonas recollects – “Allen got so interested, so gaga, about my video camera – (he said) “Could you get one for me? – I’m going to Israel next week, (actually in three days, he said), could you get one for me, so I could take some footage on my trip?” – so I said, “Sure, We’ll try”, so I called my Sony friend [Kiki Miyaka]. I said, “Could I.. could you arrange one for Allen Ginsberg.. he’s going.. you know, he could use one camera also, (he) could bring you some footage”. So (s)he, said, “Well, sure, yes, why not?, you know. So I got the camera from Sony, another Sony,for Allen, and he went to Israel and a month or so later, he’s back and I meet him on some occasion, and so I ask him, you know, “What happened ? got some interesting footage, I hope, on your trip?”. He said. “No, the first day I arrived in Israel it was stolen, my karma, my camera ,was stolen!” – there went Allen’s footage and there went the camera! – and that was that – the story of Allen’s video. I don’t think he ever got a video camera after that [Editorial note – his and Steven Taylor‘s footage of the hand-held little Sony is, of course, the basis for the remarkable “Household Affairs” movie] – but he did, of course, everybody knows, he was very very obsessed with still..taking still pictures of.. and they’re very very unique, there’s lots of pictures of his friends..and they are quite, I mean, it’s..I don’t have to tell you that they are’s quite an amazing record of Allen’s friends.

I will tell you there is a little funny story connected with Allen’s photographs. Hiro Yamagata, the Japanese painter, artist, he came..he was passing (through) New York and he said..would I meet..”Could you introduce me to Allen? He was..(he had a project to (be) painting portraits of some people that he considered the most important people of the 20th century.) So I said, “Sure, I will introduce you to Allen” called Allen and said..”Hiro Yamagata..I don’t know if you know him but.. he would like.. a famous artist, an important artist, he would like to meet you and..and do your portrait” . (Allen replied) “Surely, I can meet him. I could meet him tomorrow. I happen to have a show at NYU (New York University), a show of my photographs so he could..I could meet him at my show”. So I tell this to Hiro..I arrange a meeting there, actually I take him to the show and introduce him to Allen and he.. Allen then takes him around, showing his photographs and explaining, and I have to do something else, so I say “Goodbye, see you tomorrow, see you another time”, and there I go. And then a few weeks later, I call Allen about something and he says, “Oh thanks for introducing me to Hiro”, and I say “Good, good, you know he’s going to paint your portrait” – “No no no, I don’t know if he’s going to paint my portrait, but he bought my entire show! – my show..he bought all the photographs in my show, my new photo show!” – That was.. that little anecdote about Hiro and Allen. They became actually very good friends, Allen wrote an introduction to Hiro’s book (with (a) Mercedes car painted, car with flowers all over a Mercedes, an amazing project and Allen wrote the introduction to the catalog to the exhibition – Yamagata – and he really came also at (when) Allen died. He was present at the gathering of all Allen’s friends. So that’s it. Oh Allen!

As a coda, Jonas (discovering an old business card) credits Kiki Miyaka of Little Magic for provision of the video cameras.

Hiro Yamagata – Earthly Paradise 1993-97 – Installation View of Mercedes Benz220A Cabriolets at the Austrian Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna, 1997

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