Notes and Sketches (Walden) #3



Home Movie Textbook

for Caroline & John



Shoot a tree in wind, for ten seconds, continuously. / Shoot a tree in wind, in brief spurts of frames, in order to condense one minute of actual time to ten seconds of filmed time. / See what happens.


Shoot a face of a person, for ten seconds, continuously. / Shoot the same face, in brief spurts, in order to have ten seconds of filmed time. / See what happens.


Shoot fire (or candle) for ten seconds. Keep the camera focused on fire, steadily. / See what happens.


Point a camera at the horizon and turn around fast. / Point a camera at the horizon and turn around very slowly. / See what happens.


Shoot a brief spurt (two seconds) of a face; then shoot a brief spurt of a colorful flower, any color; then shoot the face again, briefly; then the flower again. Do this about ten times. / See what happens.


Shoot a street (you could do it from a window) busy with traffic. Shoot continuously for ten seconds. / Shoot the same street and traffic in very brief spurts of frames. Get ten seconds of footage. / See what happens.

--Jonas Mekas, extract from “This Side of Paradise”: Fragments of an Unfinished Biography (Paris: Galerie du jour Agnès B., 1999), qtd. in Eyes Upside Down, by P. Adams Sitney, OUP, 2008, p.92-3.



these are the fragments of paradise

There was a tree in Central Park that I wanted to [film]. I really liked that tree, and I kept filming at the very beginning — when I began. And then I look on the viewer and it’s not the same. It’s just a tree standing there: it’s boring. And then I began filming the tree in little fragments: I fragmented; I condensed ... and then you can see the wind in it; then you can see some energy in it. Then it became something else. Ah, that’s more interesting! That’s my tree! That’s the tree that I like, not just a tree that is naturalistic and boring, not what I saw in that tree when I was looking. I’m trying to get to why I’m looking at what I’m filming, why I’m filming it, and how I’m filming. The style reflects what I feel. ... I’m trying to understand myself, what I do. ... I’m totally ignorant of what I’m doing.

--Jonas Mekas, John Sacret Young Lecture, Princeton University, February 18, 2004, qtd. in Eyes Upside Down by P. Adams Sitney, OUP, 2008, p.91.

Diaries, Notes and Sketches (also known as Walden) - Jonas Mekas, 1969, 16mm

To anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if possible, Nature herself! How many mornings, summer and winter, before yet any neighbor was stirring about his business, have I been about mine! No doubt, many of my townsmen have met me returning from this enterprise, farmers starting for Boston in the twilight, or woodchoppers going to their work. It is true, I never assisted the sun materially in his rising, but, doubt not, it was of the last importance only to be present at it.

--Henry David Thoreau, Walden; or, Life in the Woods, 1854.

Dazzling and tremendous how quick the sunrise would kill me,
If I could not now and always send sunrise out of me. /
We also ascend dazzling and tremendous as the sun,
We found our own my soul in the calm and cool of the daybreak. /
My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.

--Walt Whitman, Song of Myself; Leaves of Grass, The First (1855) Edition.

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