Jonas Mekas Screens Andy Warhol’s Six-Hour ‘Sleep’


Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

January 30, 1964, Vol. IX, No. 15

Movie Journal

By Jonas Mekas

What does Warhol’s “Sleep” do? What doesn’t it do? Is it cinema? Is this the ultimate extension of pop art? The slowing down, stretching a detail to its limit, to what maximum effect? Using the screen as a sounding board for the viewer’s dreams, fantasies, thoughts? An exercise in hypnosis? Test of patience? A Zen joke? If it makes you angry, why? Can’t you relax and take a good joke? Running? Where to? Searching for Art in “Sleep,” doesn’t it betray our own pompousness? Why do we go to cinema? It abandons the usual movie experience for what? Pure cinema, no fake entertainment, no fake stories, isn’t that something worth trying? Does this bringing down to absurdum mean that we have to start from scratch, to forget all previous movie experiences? Doesn’t it remind us that there is not much sense in rushing? Doesn’t it remind us of the secret, almost unnoticeable motions, variations? What was wrong with those few who sat through all the six hours of the movie? Were they sick, or were they capable of satoris and delights which we are not capable of enjoying? What did it do to them, what did it really destroy or start in them, what did it germinate during those six hours which we missed — an experience which we missed in our silly (& or sick) haste? All these questions and many more you could hear in the lobby of the Gramercy Arts Theatre last weekend, during the screening of Andy Warhol’s monumental screen piece, “Sleep”….

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