Site Specifics: jonasmekasfilms.com
By Jesse P. Finnegan
Jonas Mekas' everyday approach to online video is much the same, but different, to everything else he (and the internet) is about
It’s right there in the address, jonasmekasfilms.com, a dynamic as simple as it is teeming with possibilities—the old man meets new media. A kind of mash-up of daily blog, fan club, and video library, the domain namesake is utterly Mekas: abidingly earnest, overwhelmingly prolific, and brimming with “Awl kyne z’ov daily materials.” His site runneth over with Bolex epiphanies and Handycam ruminations sprung from all across the past half-century of his ever-filmed life. In 2007 Mekas.com embarked on the “365 Day Project,” posting one video for each day of the year. The voluminous pages catalogue gems from Mekas’s day-to-day world: chats with friends, neighborhood strolls, libation-induced incantations—whoa, wait. I’m sorry. Is it me, or does this sound a lot like, well, the rest of the Internet?
An experiment: should you find yourself idling through this tangled Web we weave, and it strikes you to follow the advice of this publication and peruse the annals of jonasmekasfilms.com—stop. Instead, detour to any video-sharing site. In the search bar, type something like “Visit to Grandma, 1991,” or “First Birthday,” or “Our Vacation Video,” anything, you get the idea. Play the clip. Yes, it’s someone else’s life, but after a few seconds . . . it’s not. The video you see—for all its awkward, banal meandering, its unknown faces, its remoteness in every way—is suddenly familiar, vital, reawakened by the simple fact that you are watching it, and that someone you don’t know, but for reasons you instantly understand, has made it.
The Web’s infinity of homemade images grows exponentially, always outpacing taxonomy. Yet every one of its uploaded agonies and ecstasies necessarily exists on an equivalent plane with jonasmekasfilms.com. Mekas is significant for the same reason his website is not. Silently, maybe even indifferently, all online video sharing is predicated on the same assumption Mekas held sacred, 38 years ago, when he wrote, “The most beautiful movie poetry will be revealed someday in home-movie footage. The day is close when home movies will be appreciated as beautiful folk art. Time is laying a veil of poetry over them.”
Go to jonasmekasfilms.com