Jonas Mekas: Crack the Establishment!

“I am for the Establishment of man’s spirit: man’s spirit is always in avant garde”


Some people tell us: stay away from the Establishment; the Establishment will swallow you; you’ll become the new Establishment.

But I reason this way: There is a great beauty in Brakhage, in Warhol, in Ginsberg, in Robert Kelly, in Peter Orlovsky, in Marie Menken, in La Monte Young. If one truly cared for man, one would truly wish and work toward bringing everybody in touch with the beauty of these artists and their work. Not to make everybody alike: but to make everybody beautiful, to do away with some of the vulgarity and boredom of the Establishment. You can’t be in the same room with the sounds and images and words of these artists and remain as you were before, the same, obstinate and cramped.

That’s why I am for planting La Monte Young and Brakhage and Robert Kelly in the very middle of the Establishment.

Two months ago I met Allen Ginsberg in the street. “I am going to Harvard” he said. “There is only one thing to know,” I said: “You are going to the Establishment.” “I will give them something to think about,” said Allen.

Never the Same

So Allen Ginsberg went to Harvard and sat there, naked, with Peter Orlovsky, also naked, and talked with the students and the Establishment, and the Establishment started to crack, and Harvard will never be the same.

I am for the Establishment of man’s spirit: man’s spirit is always in avant garde. That’s the true meaning of avant garde.

Do we want our movies to be screened everywhere? Yes, yes, yes! We want our little movies to be screened everywhere — in Radio City, on 42nd Street, and in private homes, in Pittsburgh, and in the Bronx, and in the court rooms, right under the sign where it says IN GOD WE TRUST; 8mm movies, 16mm movies, CinemaScope movies, and 3-D MOVIES, Ken Jacobs movies, Andy Warhol movies, Linda Talbot’s movies, Naomi Levine movies, Kuchar movies. We’ll surround the earth with film flowers — that’s what our movies will do. Marie Menken movies, Kenneth Anger movies, Robert Breer movies: they will melt your hearts. You won’t be critics any more, you won’t be judges of morals and behavior: you’ll be watchers and lovers. That’s what we want. We are working toward the Establishment of love and this flickering beauty that is the screen. No, we are not angry at Shana Alexander and Life magazine: we can see through their games and their dreams. We want to surround the Shana Alexanders with more and more of our little movies and our big movies until their minds will crack up (in a very beautiful way) and they won’t bother about the censors and the protection of morals, and they will stand there, all naked, on the Time-Life Building sowing flower petals into Sixth Avenue, with their boobs in the wind.

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 23, 2019