In 2022, the world and Lithuania celebrate the life and work of Jonas Mekas, one of the country’s most prominent cultural figures of the 20th and 21st centuries and a global cultural phenomenon in his own right, considered by many to be the “godfather of avant-garde cinema”.
Throughout his life, Mekas always emphasized and cherished his Lithuanian roots. After fleeing the foreign occupation of his native land, he arrived in New York City, in his own words “at exactly the right moment”, joining thousands of others escaping the devastation wrought by destructive ideologies and tyrannical regimes in Europe. One might say that Mekas left one village, his native Semeniškiai in northern Lithuania, and immersed himself in the life of another – the Village thriving in and around lower Manhattan, and in its landmark publication, the Village Voice, helping to shape American and global culture so profoundly in the latter half of the 20th century.
Mekas’ name is most often associated with the United States, and with this expansive centennial observance, other countries now have the opportunity to learn more about his work. Indeed, the impact of Mekas’ unique worldview and personal experience on many world-renowned artists still awaits deeper reflection and appreciation.
This centennial celebration, Jonas Mekas 100!, seeks to expand global recognition of his work and encourage a deeper exploration of Mekas’ prolific contributions to cinema, film criticism, cultural organization, and, in particular, his body of poems and prose, now published in Lithuanian, French, German, English, Japanese, Hebrew, and many other languages.
The centennial program features over 50 events in an expanding list of countries, including: Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The vast scope of Mekas’ contribution to global cultural is examined through film screenings and retrospectives, exhibitions, readings, workshops, new publications and translations of Mekas’ writings, and concerts celebrating the spirit of his work, among other events.
The Jonas Mekas 100! program features a very special logo created by his family and friends in collaboration with designer Anastasia Zizliauskas in New York, and adapted by the Acid design agency in Lithuania. The logo combines a replica of Mekas’ own signature with its uncanny resemblance to his signature fedora, and the program’s name Jonas Mekas 100! – captured in the typeface of his faithful Olympia Deluxe typewriter, which had sacrificed the exclamation point, among other keys, to make room for special Lithuanian language characters, compelling Mekas to improvise, when needed, with a combined comma and period, or even just writing in an exclamation point by hand.
The centennial program is a joint international collaboration between leading art and cinema organisations, curators, publishers, the global network of Lithuanian cultural attachés, the Estate of Jonas Mekas, and the Lithuanian Culture Institute.
The program is partially funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.