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The Brig: the paradox of resistance and recuperation.

If anyone still wants to make a "real" movie out of Brown's play, to
"adapt" it to cinema--he may well do it. Brown once told me he had an
idea for a million dollar production of The Brig, with thousands of
prisoners. It should be done. The point of cruelty done by one man to
another can never be overstressed. I, myself, I am not interested in
adapting plays, I always said so and I am repeating it here again. The
Brig, the movie, is not an adaptation of a play: It is a film play; it
is record of my eye and my temperament lost in the play.
--Jonas Mekas, "Shooting the Brig", 1965 (1)

What is remarkable about Jonas Mekas's The Brig is neither simply the clarity with which it tells us about the American military nor its interest as a record of a theatrical production in the 60s. Rather, as Mekas himself suggests, it is a record of Mekas himself--a record of Mekas's own understanding of and relation to repressive societal apparatuses and the social function of art. We will read The Brig in the context not only of Mekas's personal trajectory as historical subject and filmmaker, but in so far as that trajectory is carved in the broader film, protest and beat cultures of which he was a part. We hope thereby to trace and illuminate some of the contradictions endemic to the specific filmic, social, and political practices prevalent in some oppositional cultures of the 60s in America, especially in relation to a dominant register of that opposition, the problem of agency.

Our reading of The Brig is polemical and allegorical. We will suggest that the text embodies a critique of late industrial capitalist society (represented here by a military brig); it gives expression to the impulse of the beat generation, the New American Cinema, and Jonas Mekas himself (as cameraman), to retreat from society in the hope of procuring self-expression and thereby social renewal and a "clean[ing] out" of "our civilized inheritance." (2) Finally, we will argue that the text literalises its own collusion with the structure that it purports to resist and negates its own utopian operation in a recuperative gesture which instantiates the paradox of resistance and recuperation that seems to beset American oppositional politics even today.

The Brig is perhaps Mekas's most concentrated textual instantiation of the topography of contradictory shifts and retractions that mark the relation between the underground and what he saw as the dominant American culture in the 60s. It is instructive to examine the circumstances of the film's production and consumption. Mekas films The Brig illegally in March 1964, sneaking into the theatre with the actors and stage crew the night before the play was to be closed by tax authorities. (3) But although the film, in terms of both its production and distribution, constituted itself outside the mainstream commercial industry, it did enjoy a great deal of mainstream critical reception after winning a prize at the Venice Film Festival. (4) Furthermore, the censorship battles Mekas waged around Flaming Creatures and Un Chant D'Amour in the same year he made The Brig attracted the attention of the police and subsequently the press. This foregrounded for the self-defined underground the question of different forms of social agency and a dialectic of visibility/invisibility, of insider/outsider positioning in relation to dominant society.


Mekas concludes his overview of 1964 in his Village Voice column by describing the three options that face the underground at a moment when it comes into contact with dominant society:
 In 1964, film-makers left the underground and came into the light,
 where they immediately clashed with the outmoded tastes and morals of
 the Establishment, the police and the critics. [...] By autumn,
 however, the tone of the press, the snides, began to change to
 fatherly friendliness. The fashion was about to be born. The magazines
 and the uptown decided to join the underground and make it part of the
 Establishment. These new tactics of the Establishment brought an
 obvious confusion into the ranks of the underground. The year 1965
 starts with the underground directors, stars, and critics regrouping
 and meditating. There are three choices: 1. to be swallowed by the
 Establishment, like many other avant-gardes and undergrounds before
 them; 2. a deeper retreat into the underground; 3. a smash through the
 lines of the Establishment to the other side of it (or above it), thus
 surrounding it. (5)

Mekas seems to set out three options--cooption, retreat, and intervention--options which he articulates in complex ways in his writings of the period. In the discussion which follows, we observe two slippages in Mekas's formulation: first, that retreat is itself construed as intervention and indeed is theorised as the only possible and desirable form of social action still available to resisting subjects in late industrial capitalist society. Second, this slippage between retreat and intervention instantiates a further contradiction of the historical moment: intervention as retreat is always already recuperated, "swallowed by the Establishment."

We can see how retreat is theorized as intervention in "Where Are We--the Underground?", a commencement address to the Philadelphia College of Art, where Mekas narrativises a 'history' of the Beat Generation:
 There were poets, and filmmakers, and painters--people who were also
 walking like one thousand painful pieces. And we felt that there was
 nothing to lose anymore. There was almost nothing worth keeping from
 our civilized inheritance. Let's clean ourselves out, we felt. Let's
 clean out everything that is dragging us down--the whole bag of
 horrors and lies and egos. The Beat Generation was the outgrowth, the
 result of this desperation; the mystical researches came out of this
 desperation. (6)

The utopian tone of Mekas's Philadelphia address follows from the terms of the third option above, "a smash through the lines of the Establishment to the other side of it (or above it), thus surrounding it." These terms are utopian in their metaphysical conception of a space at the "other side of," "above," or "surrounding" society. But it is exactly in these essentialist and utopian terms that Mekas now posits an inner self which is pure and unmediated by the social.
 Our protest and our critique of the existing order of life can only be
 through the expansion of our own being. We are the measure of all
 things. And the beauty of our creation, of our art, is proportional to
 the beauty of our souls. (7)

Here, the slippage between retreat and intervention is articulated. The individual inner self is conceived of as the "other side of," "above," and "surround" of society. The terms of intervention are those of retreat. It is the retreat into individual subjectivity and the battle for inner freedom which become the means to "smash through the lines of the Establishment." Mekas says:
 We used to march with posters protesting this and protesting that.
 Today, we realize that to improve the world, the others, first we have
 to improve ourselves; that only through the beauty of our own selves
 can we beautify the others. Our work, therefore, our most important
 work at this stage is ourselves. (8)

Social intervention is conflated with self-actualization and self-expression. Retreat is constructed as a politics with a specific investment in the priority of the individual and personal vision.

Mekas's writings in this period crystalise the imperatives which characterise Beat Culture more generally. As David James suggests, the privileging of "the liberation of consciousness," "the ethic of individualism" and "a wider rejection of the political as such" all conceived within a utopian and "autonomous" artistic practice are what characterize what he calls "beat quietism." (9) James says of the Beat Generation:
 The beats did produce critiques of mainstream society--of its lack of
 spontaneity or joy, its conformity and repress-siveness, its
 moribundity, and especially its cold-war militarism. But the dominant
 beat response aimed not to change American society so much as to
 disengage from it in acts of individual rebellion. (10)

Art is the ultimate social gesture, the ultimate "act of individual rebellion."

Artistic creation became an act of psychic wholeness and ecstacy, a model and source of social renewal and the vehicle of social dissent. (11)

Even where the critiques of mainstream society took a more conventional political form, for example in the Free Speech Movement founded at Berkeley in 1964 (the same year in which The Brig was produced), we find this impulse to withdraw from the system, to privilege the realm of individual expression and to mark it as the site of freedom and thereby social renewal. Mario Savio in his founding speech in front of the Berkeley Administration Building proclaims:
 There is a time when the operations of the machine become so odious,
 make you so sick at heart, that you can't even tacitly take part. And
 you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels [...]
 to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people that run it,
 that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at
 all. (12)

The series of idealist assumptions which underpin such a statement are emblematic of the paradox of social engagement articulated by Mekas and characteristic of the 60s social movement as a whole. Savio's speech once again relies on the assumed separations between "the machine" (Mekas's "Establishment") and "you" (the individual subject). It also involves an identification of freedom with expression and a state of being, rather than, for example, with the ability to transform existing social and economic institutions of power and subjection.

A military brig offers a very rich and powerful metaphor for late industrial capitalist society as that society was experienced and challenged by Mekas and the underground. In Althusserian terms, a brig functions as a literal metaphor for all state apparatuses which function both by repression and by ideology, that is, secured by force or by interpellation. It is simultaneously a military apparatus, a prison, and a school designed for the "reformation" of the wayward soldier to reinsert him into the military. (13) It is an apparatus specifically for the production of subjectivity, a subjectivity modelled on particular and self-reproducing norms. Although it is entirely structured by force, in an important sense the brig also functions by consent and submission.

Michel Foucault's by-now familiar metaphor of the panopticon provides a useful approach to The Brig and the particular form of social critique (and recuperation) it embodies. "Panopticism," as elaborated in Discipline and Punish, functions as a metaphor for what Foucault calls "the disciplinary society." (14) Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham's nineteenth century "dream" of a prison to describe "the gradual extension of the mechanisms of discipline [...] throughout the whole social body" and more generally as a metaphor for modern epistemology and new regimes of power. (15) For Foucault, the panoptic metaphor is the diagram of a mechanism of power reduced to its ideal form [Y] a figure of political technology. (16)

The Brig reproduces the conditions of the panopticon's optical system. In Bentham's panopticon, the warden can see into every cell but the arrangement and lighting of the cells insures that the prisoners inside can see neither the warden nor their fellow prisoners.
 They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each
 actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible. The
 panoptic mechanism arranges spatial unities that make it possible to
 see constantly and to recognize immediately. (17)

In The Living Theatre Company's theatrical production The Brig, the staging of the play reproduces this voyeuristic spectatorial relation, putting the audience in the position of the warden watching, from an omniscient position, the "theatre" of the prisoners' lives. Through a strongly articulated proscenium arch, the distance between spectators and the performers as objects of the gaze is established. Furthermore, the object is framed twice-over for the theatre audience as they peer through two wire fences: a widely-spaced barbed-wire grid at the front of the stage and a second chicken-wire cage within which the ten prisoners live. The four guards occupy the space between the two wire fences and thereby control the space between spectator and prisoners. The optical regime even applies to control of the prisoner's vision; they must always keep "eye's front" (not permitted even to look down to tie their shoes) and may not look the guards in the eye.

The space of the brig is articulated not only by fixed boundaries (the two fences and doors) but by arbitrary boundaries--"white lines" which separate cell and hallway and sections of the hallway itself. Prisoners may not cross those lines without requesting (often repeatedly) and receiving the permission of a guard. The arbitrary and constructed nature of the rules of permissibility is foregrounded. Foucault's description of the panopticon's "compact model of the disciplinary mechanism" suits the space of The Brig: an enclosed, segmented space, observed at every point, in which the individuals are inserted in a fixed place, in which the slightest movements are supervised. (18)

A process of de-individuation can be traced through various facets of the brig. Within this overall space, each individual is allotted a specific space, their bunk. Prisoners are stripped of their names and assigned numbers instead, representing the de-individualisation and institutionalisation of identity in the interest of technocratic efficiency. When lining up or sounding off, the prisoners do so in numerical order.

The specifically panoptic mechanisms of disciplinary control--isolation and control by surveillance--are enunciated in the way rules attend to the minutest details of the everyday lives of the inmates by careful control of the location of the bodies of the inmates in time and space. Movement is ordered in a number of ways. Prisoners may not move without permission; when ordered, all movement must be performed in a run or trot. What Foucault calls "the penetration of regulation into even the smallest details of everyday life" extends to urination, bathing, sleeping, and waking which are all permitted only at designated times. (19) Even leisure is determined; in the play's sole moment of levity, each prisoner is allowed one cigarette which he smokes vigourously before being told to extinguish it.

When the prisoners have no work to do, they must stand at attention at the foot of their bunk reading the Marine Manual. This rule hyperbolises, on the one hand, the economy of the socialization process (no time is wasted), and its absurdity (reading times are often too short to allow any comprehension of the manual). The education process itself is designed to work against instinctual bodily reaction through the administering of demands which contradict reflexive responses. For example, a prisoner is punched in the stomach by a guard who tells him to "stand at attention" in contradiction of his reflex to bend over.

The extension of what Foucault calls "the infinitely minute web of panoptic techniques" into the prisoner's physical lives is extended, indeed directed to, the control of the prisoner's mental lives. (20) The form that this takes is not "brainwashing" but rather a form of self-policing set up by the optical regime of the panopticon's architecture. The most important feature of the panopticon is not simply that the prisoners are being watched, but that they know they are being watched and therefore restrain themselves from breaking the rules. Like Mario Savio's Amachine, the panopticon is an automata whose systematicity and totalizing energies construct the subjectivities of its inhabitants; as Foucault writes, "This represented the abstract formula of a very real technology, that of individuals." (21)

It should be noted, however, that The Brig does not entirely conform to Foucault's model. Foucault argued that the panopticon=s Asubtle, calculated technology of subjection would supercede Athe traditional, ritual, costly, violent forms of power. (22) But the prison in The Brig is nothing if not violent, full of violent beatings, noise, and torture. The guards' cruelty is excessive and relentless, emphasized by the cyclical routine suggested by the time titles (4:30, 6:30, 11:30 etc.). We can read this manifest violence as the work's dramatization or exposure of the otherwise unseen psychic violence of the panoptic form of self-subjection. The Brig's denial of the docility of the panopticon heightens its critique of disciplinary society by suggesting the compatibility of both manifest and latent forms of the violence of subjugation.

In The Brig, the institution of the norm is crushingly emphasized by the obsessive repetition of action, which works, moreover, to insure the "voluntary" subjection of the prisoners to power. In as much it is internalised it is consensual--although it is a forced internalisation. It is important to note that the brig depicted in the film is identified (in an intertitle) as one for occupational troops in Japan. As such the marines are volunteer rather than drafted soldiers. They have, in one sense, willingly joined the army, have subjected themselves to that institution, been interpellated by it to the extent that they will subject themselves to its correctional facility, that is, its technology of surveillance, discipline and punishment. The apparent "options" available to prisoners within this structure for the construction of subjectivity are dramatised in The Brig through the processing of three prisoners: one is released; one breaks down and is removed in a straight-jacket; a third, a new prisoner, is initiated by the guards and the other prisoners. There are in fact only two options: conform (do your time) or go mad ("retreat" from the system entirely). Either way, the individual will be replaced: the brig is hermetic and circular in its production process.

In filming The Brig, Mekas as cameraman rejects the theatre spectator's fixed position in relation to the action. The theatre spectator's position is a panoptic one--powerful in being all-seeing--but at a remove from the events. In describing his own theatre experience of the play, Mekas has this to say:
 I walked out of the play. I didn't want to know anything about what
 would happen next in the play; I wanted to see it with my camera. I
 had to film it. (23)

The beginning of the film dramatizes this shift in viewer position. The film begins with four static establishing shots which present the cage and its sleeping inhabitants being observed over the shoulders of the guards. But thereafter, the film's dominant mode is that of the hand-held subjective camera constantly shifting position within the action of the drama. Mekas refuses the distance and framing that define the voyeuristic spectator position of the play, choosing, instead, a place almost in contact with the action and allowing for a mobile, subjective, and "un-ruled" framing of the events. Mekas describes himself as a subject in constant crisis during the filming process:
 I remained inside the brig, among the players, constantly stepping in
 their way, disrupting their usual movements and mise-en-scenes. My
 intention wasn't to show the play in its entirety but to catch as much
 of it as my "reporter" eyes could. This kind of shooting required an
 exhausting concentration of body and eye. I had to operate the camera;
 I had to keep out of the cast's way; I had to look for what was going
 on and listen for what was said; I had to make instantaneous decisions
 about my movements and the camera movements, knowing that their was no
 time for reshooting, no time for mistakes: I was a circus man on a
 tightrope high in the air. (24) (1972, 191)


In an earlier essay, Mekas describes why he privileges improvisation:
 It was in his quest for inner freedom that the new artist came to
 improvisation. The young American film-maker, like the young painter,
 musician, actor, resists his society. He knows that everything he has
 learned from his society about life and death is false. He cannot,
 therefore, arrive at any true creation, creation as revelation of
 truth, by reworking and rehashing ideas, images, and feelings that are
 dead and inflated--he has to descend much deeper, below all that
 clutter, he has to escape the centrifugal force of everything he has
 learned from his society. His spontaneity, his anarchy, even his
 passivity are his acts of freedom. (25)

Mekas suggests further the social implications of this instantiation of freedom through spontaneous gesture:
 For him [the new American filmmaker], neither spontaneity not
 improvisation are aims in themselves. Neither are they means to
 esthetic goals. For the new American generation spontaneity serves an
 ethical purpose. (26)

Yet, as we will attempt to demonstrate, The Brig dramatises a paradox within its own gesture for liberation: the contradiction of resistance and recuperation.
 Spontaneity as liberation, as bliss, as a means of freeing one's self
 from the moral, social cliches, out-dated mores, the business way of
 life. It is an outgrowth of the same ethical preoccupations, of a
 desire to be close to earth, of believing only in an immediate
 experience, in an action, which, in a different way, could also be
 found in Robbe-Grillet's de-mystification of man, a coming down to
 facts. (27)

What is the "earth" that Mekas gets close to and which "facts" does he come down to in his filming of The Brig? For it is precisely in the celebration of self-expression--"spontaneity as liberation"--that the brig as metaphor for "the machine", "the Establishment", "civilised inheritance" is naturalised, treated as if it were an immutable reality rather than produced and constructed. If the film is to be authentic it has to be spontaneous. Hence he not only insists on seeing the stage action for the first time through his camera but also on treating it as if it were reality itself--unpredictable and unrepeatable. In doing so, he disavows the constructed nature of The Brig as a play.
 [T]he performance [...] moved with the inevitability of life itself.
 As I watched I thought: Suppose this was a real brig; suppose I was a
 newsreel reporter; suppose I got permission from the U.S. Marine Corps
 to go into one of their brigs and film the goings-on: What a document
 one could bring to the eyes of humanity! The way The Brig was being
 played now, it was a real brig as far as I was concerned. (28)

This imaginary position simultaneously naturalizes the content of vision and subjectivises the form of vision. In filming The Brig, Mekas first refuses the physical position of the panopticist theatre spectator to adopt an imaginary spectator position inside the brig--a position which resists the architecture of the panoptic regime. But this resisting position is constituted upon the disavowal of the brig's fictional, constructed nature, what David James, in another context, evocatively describes as an "ideologically complicit positivism." (29) If a brig is an emblem of panoptic society, then the film, in its gesture of resistance, functions, by a strange twist, to naturalize that society and so understand it as unchangeable and immutable. (30) Mekas acknowledges this immutability as the foundation for the quietism of the beat generation:
 It is the so-called serious and engaged citizen who stiffens the
 "armors" of humanity by misleading man with false solutions and
 changes, by postponing man's realization of the fact that he, really,
 doesn't know the solutions and that he cannot know and cannot change
 anything, really. (31)

This statement eloquently captures the willful disempowerment characteristic of "beat quietism." (32) In a vicious cycle, beat quietism is complicit in reproducing the conditions of alienation and atomization that prompted beat withdrawal from the political to begin with.

James extends this view to beat culture as a whole: "[T]he beats were anti-political rather than merely apolitical, believing that any systematic attempt to reconstruct society as a whole by rationally derived and progressively implemented programs could only reproduce the materialism and instrumentalism that made modern civilization." (33) The insistence upon unmediated perception as an alternate to "large mental structures that satisfy the desolate modern ego" is attendant upon a withdrawal from "any systematic attempt to reconstruct society as a whole by rationally derived and progressively implemented programs." (34) But it is precisely with this withdrawal that the dominant society is served and recuperated. In the very attempt to stand outside of history and society, that is, in the very claim that an outside is possible, lies the moment of the recuperation of the inside, constituting it as an hermetic structure and thereby "reproduc(ing) the materialism and instrumentalism that made modern civilization...." (35) Advanced industrial and imperialist capitalism become nature.

What is remarkable and valuable about The Brig is the clarity with which it instantiates simultaneously a gesture of resistance and the negation of that gesture. The text allows for an evocative symptomatic reading of the double-bind facing the social actor in late industrial capitalism. Even when we appear most self-expressive, we are already framed by the processes of construction, determination, and history.

The paradox of resistance and recuperation, and its implications for the conception of historical agency and the conception of freedom in general is powerfully instantiated when, at the end of the film, the camera pulls back to reveal the stage, the proscenium arch and the theatre audience seats. (36) On the one hand the final shot can be read as a distantiation device which lays bare the process by which the brig has been naturalized and its constructed nature disavowed. On the other hand, the final shot can also be read as restoring the camera to the position of the panopticon, and thereby undoing or negating Mekas's gesture of resistance in choosing an improvisational and subjective mode of vision. With the camera restored to the theatre spectator's position, the text suggests its own recuperation into panoptic society (in the same way that the initiation of the new soldier into the brig suggested the capacity of disciplinary society to contain change and thereby recuperate itself). But, in demonstrating the process of its own recuperation, the text illuminates its historical moment.
 There was a time, when I was sixteen or seventeen, when I was
 idealistic and believed that the world would change in my own
 lifetime. [...] I had faith in the progress of man, in the goodness of
 man. Then came the war [World War II], and I went through horrors more
 unbelievable than anything I had read in the books, and it all
 happened right before my eyes. [...] And it's still being done today,
 in Vietnam, by my generation. It's done all over the world, by my
 generation. [...] I wasn't one piece any longer; I was one thousand
 painful pieces.
 It's really from this, and because of this, that I did what I did. I
 felt I had to start from the very beginning. [...] I wasn't surprised
 when, upon my arrival in New York, I found others who felt as I felt.
 There were poets, and filmmakers, and painters--people who were also
 walking like one thousand painful pieces. And we felt that there was
 nothing to lose anymore. There was almost nothing worth keeping from
 our civilized inheritance. Let's clean ourselves out, we felt. Let's
 clean out everything that is dragging us down--the whole bag of
 horrors and lies and egos. The Beat Generation was the outgrowth, the
 result of this desperation; the mystical researches came out of this
 desperation. (37)

We have attempted to produce a symptomatic reading of The Brig as an instantiation of a particular experience of American society, a particular conception of the possible spaces of political resistance, and the paradox of that conception as one which was recuperative of the dominant social formation it set out to resist. This is by no means the only possible reading of the film. Rather we have privileged this reading of the text because of its polemical value for a consideration of what is at stake in the political discourses of 60s protest politics as a whole. It is not the intention, nor the place of this paper to preach political strategy or program. Rather, our concern has been to generate, through our analysis of the text, a critique of the political assumptions, strategies, discourses and self-definitions which seem to have dominated the conception of the political field and its horizons in the 60s.

It has often been claimed, as it has by Mekas himself, that a non-programmatic politics of withdrawal and non-participation is the only rational and indeed possible form of politics in late industrial capitalist society. The system or "machine" of late capitalism is blamed for having forced American oppositional politics out of the communities and streets and into the academies, interest group lobbies, and the TV boxes. What Jameson calls "History as necessity" is echoed by Mekas when he speaks of his own filmic practice as "imposed upon him by his time, as the only possible route." These positions, however, are given ironic parallel by Kennedy's rather glib dismissal of political contestation in his address at Yale in 1962: "What is at stake is [...] not basic clashes of philosophy or ideology [... but] the practical management of a modern economy." (38) Both those in power and those in opposition share the same sense of the inevitability of history, and specifically, the inevitability of history generated by the capitalist "machine." The lines between affirmation and resistance become blurred.

The Vietnam war ended but American Imperialism has not. McCarthyism stopped but political censorship and the insistence upon the alignment of patriotism with free enterprise remains, and has intensified. People achieved a number of civil rights but the gap between rich and poor in America is as wide today as it was in the 60s. People achieved a high degree of freedom of speech and expression and yet seem more ineffectual and distanced from the political decision-making processes than ever. People moved from the streets into the academies--and never came out again. The third world is increasingly globally disenfranchised and economically dependent and colonized. In Mekas's words, our "civilised inheritance" is still very much ours, "the whole bag of horrors and lies and egos." What are we to do with our "desperation"?

Our historical moment demands that we consider what is at stake in the still current crisis of political agency as articulated by Mekas in The Brig, that "history is necessity," that, as Mekas says, his practice is "imposed upon him by his time, as the only possible route." This articulation begs another question: Is the injunction of retreat simply true of late capitalist society today or is it itself a regime of truth functioning in the interests of the maintenance and naturalisation of existing power structures?

Nicola Galombik is a media consultant in Johannesburg who worked previously with the IBA (Independent Broadcasting Authority) and as Head of Educational Television at the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation).

Michael Zryd is Assistant Professor of Cinema & Media Studies at York University. The first version of this text was completed in 1991, written in the shadow of the first U.S.-Iraq war.


1 Jonas Mekas, Movie Journal: The Rise of the New American Cinema 1959-1971 (New York: Macmillan, 1972), p. 194.

2 Jonas Mekas, "Where Are We--the Underground?" The New American Cinema: A Critical Anthology. ed. Gregory Battcock (New York: Dutton, 1967), p. 18.

3 Calvin Tomkins, "Profiles: Jonas Mekas," The New Yorker 6 January 1973, p. 38-9.

4 A myth developed around the film: that The Brig, a film of a fictional theatrical representation of a Marine brig performed by The Living Theatre Company, had won an award as a documentary. The film in fact, as was reported in Variety, won a prize "as best fictional film screened at the ... 15th International Documentary Festival of Venice" (our emphasis). All of the critics below suggested that the film had in fact won the documentary award. See for examples: "The Brig," Variety, 9 Sept 9 1964; "N.Y. Fest: Short Takes & Tales," Variety, 30 Sept 1964; "Mekas's 'Brig' Wins at Venice," The Village Voice, 22 Aug 1964; "'Brig' Wins at Venice Documentary Fest; 2 Yank Pix Cop Kid Awards," Variety, 26 Aug 1964; "The Brig", by Howard Thompson, New York Times, 21 Sept 1964; Time, 25 Sept 1964; Newsweek, 25 April 1966; Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice, 21 April 1966.

5 Village Voice column written 7 January 1965, in Movie Journal, p. 175.

6 Mekas, "Where Are We," p. 18.

7 Ibid. p. 20.

8 Ibid.

9 David E. James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), p. 94.

10 Ibid, p. 93.

11 Ibid, p. 97.

12 Lawrence Wittner, Cold War America: From Hiroshima to Watergate (New York: Praeger, 1974), p. 246.

13 In the film, the brig also functions as a mental hospital, differentiating, restraining, and expelling the prisoner who Acracks.@

14 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon Books, 1977), p. 209.

15 Ibid, pp. 225, 209.

16 Ibid, p. 205.

17 Ibid, p. 200.

18 Ibid, p. 197.

19 Ibid, p. 198.

20 Ibid, p. 224.

21 Ibid, p. 225. In psychoanalytic terms, the panopticon as a metaphor for "self-policing" subjects can be understood as the massive introjection and internalisation of super-ego that characterises a means by which power is exercised ("the logic of domination") in modern society.

22 Ibid, p. 221.

23 Mekas, Movie Journal, p. 190. Emphasis in original.

24 Ibid, p. 191.

25 Jonas Mekas, "Notes on the New American Cinema," Film Culture Reader, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Praeger, 1970), p. 106.

26 Jonas Mekas, "Cinema of the New Generation," Film Culture 21 (1960): p. 17.

27 Ibid.

28 Mekas, Movie Journal, p. 190.

29 James, p. 51.

30 In The Brig, for all of Mekas's gestures to enter the space of the action, the actors never look back at the camera to acknowledge Mekas's presence. The world is literally separate and unchanging in relation to the social actor, the cameraman.

31 Jonas Mekas, "Notes on Some New Movies and Happiness," Film Culture Reader, ed. P. Adams Sitney (New York: Praeger, 1970): pp. 320-21.

32 James, p. 94.

33 Ibid.

34 Ibid, p. 40, 94.

35 Ibid, 94.

36 The rigour with which Mekas had previously avoided showing the rest of the theatre in The Brig is made clear in Storm DeHirsch's Newsreel: Jonas Films The Brig: we see the extremely restricted space of the theatre as barely a foot separates the stage from the first row of seats. Mekas himself confirms this in his description of the filming process: "I placed two strong floods on the front seats of the theatre so I could move freely around without showing the seats" (Mekas, Movie Journal, p. 191). This foregrounds the anomaly of the final shot and suggests its gestural significance.

37 Mekas, "Where are We," p. 18.

38 Quoted in Wittner, p. 208.
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Author:Galombik, Nicola; Zryd, Michael
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2006
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