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Interview with Douglas Gordon & Jonas Mekas

Concorso Cineasti del presente

Interview with Douglas Gordon & Jonas Mekas



Mr Douglas Gordon, who was Jonas Mekas? And what did such a historical figure of experimental cinema represent to you, before you met him?

DG – Jonas Mekas is Jonas Mekas. He never was, he is.


Mr Mekas, by your example, you have been a teacher for many artists and directors who have moved towards experimental areas. Do you recognize in Douglas Gordon some… link of inheritance?

JM – What links us together is not so much the inheritance, but our being excited, our being open to the adventures in cinema as it emerges from the chaos which we call Future. And, mind you, we do NOT experiment: we see it, we grab it, and that's it!


Where does your cooperation come from? What kind of meeting did you have?

DG – I met Jonas when he was still a young man. I think he was 75 years old, when I met him, and I was intrigued. That’s where the cooperation comes from. I was intrigued with Jonas from the first moment I met him, maybe from the first thirtieth of a second or the first twenty-fourth of a second that I met him. That’s where my intrigue comes from.

JM – Long before I met Douglas I met his films and they were exciting. I like them because they are so different from what I or anyone else is doing. His films open a totally new invisible window full of visual excitement. And I like Douglas himself, because he's always 200% himself, and is always unpredictable, like his films.


Between you there are 44 years of difference, but your desire to experiment is certainly something you have in common. Mekas did it in a world that was still related to 35mm film, Gordon in a universe dominated by digital machines. What is your relationship with film?

JM – Yes, I grew up in the world of 35mm. But I made an escape from it into the world of 16mm and 8mm, and this other world is very close to the digital world. Actually, it gave birth to the digital world. The 8mm world is almost as personal, as intimate as the digital world. So it was very easy for me to make the jump – it was a very small ditch to jump over.

DG – I had no idea that there is such a beautiful mathematical symbol as 44. Isn’t that beautiful? Jonas and I are 44, which is better than 666. In terms of the relationship with film, digital, 35 mm, etcetera… I think that one of the things that Jonas and I share is that we don’t care. We like to work with moving images. The format does not matters.


Mr Mekas, what do you think, from this point of view, of the current artistic tendencies? Is there still space for avant-garde expressions?

JM – Another word for the avant-garde is the “front line”, and there will always be front lines in every area of our work and play. And, as in the contemporary wars that we play, the avant-gardes have become multi-dimensional, no longer linear, they are happening at the same time in many places, and in many different media simultaneously. We live in a very exciting era!


Mr Gordon, you have always worked on the distortion of narration time. Did you here focus on time embracing the concept of memory?

DG – Time can’t embrace anything. Time exists. Time moves on. The concept of memory is for philosophers.


Mr Mekas, what did you feed when passing in front of the camera, becoming the star of somebody else’s art project and telling the audience the hardest moments of your existence?

JM – For a diaristic film-maker and writer, which I am, being personal, being open is the material of one's work. But what I permit others to see of myself, is only what can be pried open with the tools of one's art. The deepest recesses of myself remain sealed even to myself.


Mr Gordon, you have defined your work as a search around the unconscious of film. In this case, was it a search around the unconscious of a person?

DG – No, it was a dialogue between a fellow, who is ninety something years old and his ninety something years old self. So it wasn’t a search, it is a dialogue between one man and another man, both of whom are the same.


Mr Mekas, you have always said that if one wants to touch deeper truths, it is essential to abandon realism to venture into the territories of poetry. But, in your opinion, what is the relationship between the poetry of images and the poetry of words?

JM – The poetry of “cinema” comes from the images and sounds, and the poetry of “literature” comes from the words. Both eventually end up in your mind and in your body and wake up states, feelings of “poetry”. To say more about what is poetry, one would have to write 1000 books.


Lorenzo Buccella

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