A series of events dedicated to the CENTENARY of JONAS MEKAS LAUNCHES IN THE USA
The retrospective of cinematic portraits by Jonas Mekas, Among Friends: Cinematic Portraits of Mekas, that began on 12 February at Mana Contemporary, a cultural centre in Jersey City, New Jersey, began a series of events dedicated to the centenary of the birth of this filmmaker, film critic, writer, and poet, in the United States.
A series of three events held at the Jonas Mekas studio
On 12 February, the Monira Foundation, based at the Mana Contemporary cultural centre, launched a programme dedicated to the centenary of Jonas Mekas’ birth with a series of events put together by Lukas Brašiškis and Inesa Brašiškė. The curators of the exhibition Jonas Mekas and the New York Avant-Garde at the National Gallery of Art in Vilnius had proposed to the Monira Foundation a series of three screenings and discussions under the title Jonas Mekas’ Cinematic Friendships: Collaboration, Care and Support as a way to commemorate Mekas’ centenary.
“Mekas’ cinematographic vocabulary is autobiographical and poetic, combining artistic ingenuity and documentary, personal experience and the artist’s socio-cultural context. Mekas’ creative biography is inseparable from films by other artists: films by those who influenced his aesthetic and political perception, and films by friends he passionately supported,” said the programme’s curators.
The series of events at the Jonas Mekas Studio, based at Mana Contemporary, aimed to highlight the leitmotifs of Mekas’ creative life: fostering friendship, the poetry of the everyday, and a strong belief in freedom of artistic expression.
The first part of Among Friends: Cinematic Portraits of Mekas, on 12 February, featured both sequential and non-linear portraits of Jonas Mekas created by various filmmakers in the 20th century: Gideon Bachmann, Andy Warhol, Takahiko limura, Bytautė Pajėdienė, and Ken Jacobs. The screening was followed by a discussion about the significance of cinematic portraits for avant-garde cinema in the United States. Jonas Mekas’ son Sebastian Mekas presented the portraits his father had created of his friends, on show at the studio.
The second part of the programme, In Defense of Artistic Freedom: Infamous Surprise Program, took place on 12 March. It featured films that were once banned by US censorship for the illegal screening of which Mekas not only fought but was also arrested and tried in court. The screening was followed by a discussion. Sebastian Mekas presented a number of important documents attesting to his father’s fight against censorship.
The programme ended on 9 April with the event Filmmaking as Taking Notes. Poetry of the Mundane in Films by Marie Menken and Jonas Mekas. Selected films by Jonas Mekas and his favourite film poet Marie Menken were shown, and a discussion and reading of Jonas Mekas’ poetry took place.
EXHIBITION AT THE JEWISH MUSEUM IN NEW YORK
On 17 February, the exhibition Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running opened at The Jewish Museum in New York.
The exhibition explored the influence of Jonas Mekas’ life, work and legacy on cinema. The first comprehensive museum study of Jonas Mekas’ work in the United States delved deep into the artist’s seven-decade career. The exhibition featured 11 films placed in the context of engaging space, photography and previously unseen archival material. The exhibition was put together by guest curator Kelly Taxter and curator of the Jewish Museum Kristina Parsons.
During the opening of the exhibition, the monograph Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running compiled by Inesa Brašiškė, Lukas Brašiškis and Kelly Taxter was also presented. It is the first study in English, with abundant visual material, presenting Jonas Mekas as a key member of the New York avant-garde film scene. The monograph was published by Yale University Press together with the Jewish Museum of New York and the Lithuanian National Museum of Art.
The exhibition in New York was accompanied and complemented by a retrospective of Jonas Mekas’ films Film at the Lincoln Center. From 17 to 23 February, viewers were able to see eight films and two short film programmes there.
The international project Jonas Mekas 100! is dedicated to the centenary year of the birth of the avant-garde filmmaker, film critic and poet Jonas Mekas in 2022. The programme, comprising over 50 various events, has been prepared by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the Lithuanian cultural attachés and the Estate of Jonas Mekas. Film screenings, exhibitions, video installations, concerts, poetry readings, discussion and thematic residency programmes, poetry translation workshops, publishing projects and other initiatives will take place in leading cultural institutions in many countries around the world. The programme is partially funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. The Jonas Mekas 100! programme is available on the website www.jonasmekas100.com.