A Tribute to Cinema
Jonas Mekas by Liz Wendelbo
Jonas Mekas. Happy Birthday to John 1996, John Lennon and Yoko Ono at the Museum of Syracuse, 1971. 16mm film frame. © 2012 Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. Award Presentation to Andy Warhol 1964. Andy Warhol's factory, 16mm film frame © 2012 Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. This Side of Paradise 1999. Kennedy family holiday in Montauk, New York, 1972, 16mm film frame © 2012 Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life 1969/1985. Caroline Kennedy in China Town, New York, 1972 16mm film frame © 2012 Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. From In Between 1978, Mekas and Salvador Dalí, fooling around during one of Dalí's "happening" events, l964 © Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. Mekas with his Bolex in Lithuania 1971 © Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. There is No Ithaca 1996. Published by Black Thistle Press. Photograph: Jonas Mekas © 2012 Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. As I was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty 2000, 16mm film (colour, sound), 285 min © Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. Mekas and brother Adolfas at the Film-Makers Cooperative, 1962 © Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas. Walden 1969, Window flower, 16mm film frame © 2012 Jonas Mekas
WTC HAIKUS 201012 - 16mm film transferred to video, 14min 4sec. Installation view, Jonas Mekas, Serpentine Gallery, London (5 December 2012 - 27 January 2013) © 2012 Jerry Hardman-Jones
The Serpentine Gallery is holding a retrospective exhibition for Jonas Mekas, founder of Anthology Film Archives in New York with his brother and other agitators of the 1950s and the decades that followed. The exhibition was conceived by the artist as a way to revisit his archives, which contain endless hours of film and countless rolls of video and photographs. Whether he’s shooting or editing, Mekas has a good time and the viewer does, too. And he does it every day. He came up with the challenge 40 First Days to film the forty last days of the year and its visual experiences before editing them together. In Lavender Piece, the videos playing on 16 screens show him dancing in the offices at Anthology Film Archives, engaged in a multigenerational snowball fight, or dressed up like a Gaul. He linked the images together to give them a comic or poetic meaning. He achieves a certain exhaustivity of representation through quantity, repetition and non-hierarchical irregularity.
Mekas has worked almost daily for the past forty years, always with an eye toward dreams of images and love. Outtakes from the Life of a Happy Man is the most gentle illustration of this passion. It is a tribute from Mekas to his environment, New York in particular. He presents a compilation of views of the World Trade Center, gleaned from his archives as an ode to the city. Photographs of children he filmed in Brooklyn cover the walls.
One of the most remarkable things about the exhibition is that it features essentially video—a difficult medium in a museum context—with a transdisciplinary setting. Numerous films are presented as prints, corresponding to the photographic period of Mekas' youth spent in refugee camps in Germany. Other images are combined with the poems of this mischievous optimist. Mekas was friends with the artists of his time, from Warhol to Dali, all of whom he documented. He constantly reinvents this world by sharing the experience of it. It’s no coincidence that his manifesto for the community of filmmakers is entitled Birth of a Nation.
Exhibition ends January 27, 2013
London W2 3XA
T : 020 7402 6075