December 24, 1922|
|Occupation||Poet, filmmaker, artist|
|Alma mater||University of Mainz|
|Literary movement||Avant-garde cinema|
|Notable awards||Lithuanian National Prize (1995)|
Jonas Mekas (Lithuanian: [ˈjonɐs ˈmækɐs]; born December 24, 1922) is a Lithuanian American filmmaker, poet and artist who has often been called "the godfather of American avant-garde cinema". His work has been exhibited in museums and festivals worldwide.
In 1944, Mekas left Lithuania because of war. En route, his train was stopped in Germany and he and his brother, Adolfas Mekas (1925–2011), were imprisoned in a labor camp in Elmshorn, a suburb of Hamburg, for eight months. The brothers escaped and were detained near the Danish border where they hid on a farm for two months until the end of the war. After the war, Mekas lived in displaced person camps in Wiesbaden and Kassel. From 1946 to 1948, he studied philosophy at the University of Mainz and at the end of 1949, he emigrated with his brother to the U.S., settling in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York. Two weeks after his arrival, he borrowed the money to buy his first Bolex 16mm camera and began to record moments of his life. He discovered avant-garde film at venues such as Amos Vogel's pioneering Cinema 16, and he began curating avant-garde film screenings at Gallery East on Avenue A and Houston Street, and a Film Forum series at Carl Fisher Auditorium on 57th Street.
In 1954, together with his brother Adolfas Mekas, he founded Film Culture, and in 1958, began writing his "Movie Journal" column for The Village Voice. In 1962, he co-founded Film-Makers' Cooperative and the Filmmakers' Cinematheque in 1964, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, one of the world's largest and most important repositories of avant-garde film. He was part of the New American Cinema, with, in particular, fellow film-maker Lionel Rogosin. He was a close collaborator with artists such as Andy Warhol, Nico, Allen Ginsberg, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Salvador Dalí, and fellow Lithuanian George Maciunas.
In 1964, Mekas was arrested on obscenity charges for showing Flaming Creatures (1963) and Jean Genet's Un Chant d'Amour (1950). He launched a campaign against the censorship board, and for the next few years continued to exhibit films at the Film-makers' Cinemathèque, the Jewish Museum, and the Gallery of Modern Art. From 1964 to 1967, he organized the New American Cinema Expositions, which toured Europe and South America and in 1966 joined 80 Wooster Fluxhouse Coop.
In 1970, Anthology Film Archives opened on 425 Lafayette Street as a film museum, screening space, and a library, with Mekas as its director. Mekas, along with Stan Brakhage, Ken Kelman, Peter Kubelka, James Broughton, and P. Adams Sitney, began the ambitious Essential Cinema project at Anthology Film Archives to establish a canon of important cinematic works.
As a film-maker, Mekas' own output ranges from his early narrative film (Guns of the Trees, 1961) to "diary films" such as Walden (1969); Lost, Lost, Lost (1975); Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), Zefiro Torna (1992), and As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty, which have been screened extensively at festivals and museums around the world.
Mekas expanded the scope of his practice with his later works of multi-monitor installations, sound immersion pieces and "frozen-film" prints. Together they offer a new experience of his classic films and a novel presentation of his more recent video work. His work has been exhibited at the 51st Venice Biennial, PS1 Contemporary Art Center, the Ludwig Museum, the Serpentine Gallery, and the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center.
In the year 2007, Mekas released one film every day on his website, a project he entitled "The 365 Day Project." The online diary is still ongoing on Jonas Mekas' official website. It was celebrated in 2015 with a show titled "The Internet Saga" which was curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi at Palazzo Foscari Contarini on the occasion of the 56th Venice Biennale of Visual Arts.
Mekas is also a well-known Lithuanian language poet and has published his poems and prose in Lithuanian, French, German, and English. His work has been well translated into English by the Lithuanian-American poet Vyt Bakaitis in such collections as Daybooks: 1970-1972 (Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs: 2013) and the major anthology (bilingual) of modern Lithuanian verse: Gyvas atodusis/Breathing Free, poems Lietuvos: Vilnius, 2001. Mekas has published many of his journals and diaries including I Had Nowhere to Go: Diaries, 1944–1954 and Letters from Nowhere, as well as articles on film criticism, theory, and technique. On November 10, 2007, the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center was opened in Vilnius.
Jonas Mekas in culture
Awards and honors
- Guggenheim Fellowship (1966)
- Creative Arts Award, Brandeis University (1977)
- Mel Novikoff Award, San Francisco Film Festival (1989)
- Lithuanian National Prize, Lithuania (1995)
- Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, Kansas City Art Institute (1996)
- Special Tribute, New York Film Critics Circle Awards (1996)
- Pier Paolo Pasolini Award, Paris (1997)
- International Documentary Film Association Award, Los Angeles (1997)
- Governors Award from the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine (1997)
- Atrium Doctoris Honoris Causa, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania (1997)
- Represented Lithuania at the 51st International Art Exhibition Venice Biennial (2005)
- United States National Film Preservation Board selects "Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania" for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry (2006)
- Los Angeles Film Critics Association's Award (2007)
- Austrian Decoration for Science and Art (2008)
- Baltic Cultural Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the field of Arts and Science (2008)
- Life Achievement Award at the second annual Rob Pruitt's Art Awards (2010)
- George Eastman Honorary Scholar Award (2011)
- 'Carry your Light and Believe' Award, Ministry of Culture, Lithuania (2012)
- Commandeur de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres, Ministry of Culture, France (2013)
- Guns of the Trees (1962)
- Film Magazine of the Arts (1963)
- The Brig (1964) - 65 minutes
- Empire (1964)
- Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (1964)
- Report from Millbrook (1964–65)
- Hare Krishna (1966)
- Notes on the Circus (1966)
- Cassis (1966)
- The Italian Notebook (1967)
- Time and Fortune Vietnam Newsreel (1968)
- Walden (Diaries, Notes, and Sketches) (1969) - 3 hours
- Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971–72)
- Lost, Lost, Lost (1976)
- In Between: 1964–8 (1978)
- Notes for Jerome (1978)
- Paradise Not Yet Lost (also known as Oona's Third Year) (1979)
- Street Songs (1966/1983)
- Cups/Saucers/Dancers/Radio (1965/1983)
- Erik Hawkins: Excerpts from "Here and Now with Watchers"/Lucia Dlugoszewski Performs (1983)
- He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (1969/1985)
- Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol (1990)
- Mob of Angels/The Baptism (1991)
- Dr. Carl G. Jung or Lapis Philosophorum (1991)
- Quartet Number One (1991)
- Mob of Angels at St. Ann (1992)
- Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (1992)
- The Education of Sebastian or Egypt Regained (1992)
- He Travels. In Search of... (1994)
- Imperfect 3-Image Films (1995)
- On My Way to Fujiyama I Met… (1995)
- Happy Birthday to John (1996) - 34 minutes
- Memories of Frankenstein (1996)
- Birth of a Nation (1997)
- Scenes from Allen's Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (1997)
- Letter from Nowhere – Laiskas is Niekur N.1 (1997)
- Symphony of Joy (1997)
- Song of Avignon (1998)
- Laboratorium (1999)
- Autobiography of a Man Who Carried his Memory in his Eyes (2000)
- This Side of Paradise (1999) - 35 minutes
- Notes on Andy's Factory (1999)
- Mysteries (1966–2001)
- As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) - 285 minutes
- Remedy for Melancholy (2000)
- Ein Maerchen (2001)
- Williamsburg, Brooklyn (1950–2003)
- Mozart & Wien and Elvis (2000)
- Travel Songs (1967–1981)
- Dedication to Leger (2003)
- Notes on Utopia (2003) 30 min,
- Letter from Greenpoint (2004)
- 365 Day Project (2007), 30 hours in total
- Notes on American Film Director: Martin Scorsese (2007), 80 minutes.
- Lithuania and the Collapse of USSR (2008), 4 hours 50 minutes.
- Sleepless Nights Stories (Premiere at the Berlinale 2011) - 114 minutes
- My Mars Bar Movie (2011)
- Correspondences: José Luis Guerin and Jonas Mekas (2011)
- Reminiszenzen aus Deutschlan (2012)
- Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man (2012) - 68 minutes
He married Hollis Melton in 1974. They had two children, a daughter (Oona) and a son (Sebastian). His family is featured in Jonas' films such as Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man.
- Adolfas Mekas
- Vyt Bakaitis
- Cinema of Lithuania
- Anthology Film Archives
- Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center
- Barbara Rubin
- Ivanov, Maksim. Jonas Mekas' Diary Films in: Lithuanian Cinema: Special Edition for Lithuanian Film Days in Poland 2015, Auksė Kancerevičiūtė [ed.]. Vilnius: Lithuanian Film Centre, 2015. ISBN 6099574409.
- Mekas' passport shows December 23, 1922, the date sometimes listed as his "official" date of birth; however, he was actually born on December 24, 1922, as he confirms in this video interview.
- "Interview: Jonas Mekas by Modestas Mankus". Our Culture Mag. Our Culture Mag.
- Jonas Mekas, Champion of the "Poetic" Cinema by Richard Brody in The NewYorker, April 21, 2016 
- Short Films Coming Soon to an iPod Near You, All Things Considered, November 5, 2006. Producer Ben Shapiro reports on a plan by filmmaker Jonas Mekas to make short films available as a podcast.
- "Reply to a parliamentary question" (pdf) (in German). p. 1879. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
- "Scenes from the Life of a Happy Man... The Films of Jonas Mekas". Harvard Film Archive. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- "Jonas Mekas Film and Videography". Retrieved 12 February 2017.
- Hans-Jürgen Tast (Hrsg.) "As I Was Moving. Kunst und Leben" (Schellerten/Germany 2004) (z.m.a.K.), ISBN 3-88842-026-1.
- Efren Cuevas, "The Immigrant Experience in Jonas Mekas's Diary Films: A Chronotopic Análisis of Lost, Lost, Lost", Biography, vol. 29, n. 1, winter 2006, pp. 55–73, .
- Fashion Film Festival presents "The Internet Saga", 
- Jonas Mekas on IMDb
- Jonas Mekas' website
- A Conversation between Jonas Mekas and Stan Brakhage
- The New York Times: Jonas Mekas Refuses to Fade
- Interview with Interview Magazine
- Interview with 3:AM Magazine
- Jonas Mekas "The Internet Saga", Venice
- The Anthology Film Archives
- Senses of Cinema: Great Directors Critical Database
- Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center
- Jonas Mekas in conversation with the Brooklyn Rail
- Jonas Mekas poetry in English
- A short documentary about Jonas Mekas (29mn)
- Jonas Mekas tells his life story at Web of Stories
- Jonas Mekas' DVDs : https://web.archive.org/web/20131129045726/http://www.re-voir.com/boutique/category.php?id_category=47
- "To Barbara Rubin With Love" by Jonas Mekas
- Jonas Mekas at the Serpentine Gallery 2012