Jonas Mekas presents Flux Party

Date: 17 October 2008 | Season: Jonas Mekas, Miscellaneous | Tags: ,

Friday 17 October 2008, 11:15pm til late
London Rio Cinema

Legendary artist-filmmaker Jonas Mekas presents Flux Party featuring the complete Fluxus film anthology as assembled by George Maciunas, rare Fluxus audio and a few surprises. This special late night screening on the big screen of East London’s splendid art deco picture palace includes films by George Brecht, Dick Higgins, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Paul Sharits and Wolf Vostell. Jonas Mekas will be in attendance to discuss Fluxus and his friend and fellow Lithuanian émigré, the late George Maciunas, and Ben Vautier will show rare Fluxus performance footage.

George Maciunas & others, 1962-70, 120 min

Curated by Mark Webber and Anne-Sophie Dinant. Organised by the South London Gallery.


Brief Glimpses of Beauty: The Films of Jonas Mekas (Part One)

Date: 6 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

6—16 December 2012
London BFI Southbank

Cinema history would be unimaginably different if not for the essential role played by Jonas Mekas. For over half a century, he has been a tireless advocate of independent film in his capacities as critic, curator, promoter, sponsor and archivist. Mekas is also one of cinema’s true poets, whose works chronicle his remarkable life and the extraordinary people around him. From his unique perspective as participant or close observer, he has documented the independent film community and the wider cultures of art, music, and literature through the late 20th century.

Born in Lithuania in 1922, Mekas fled his homeland during World War II. Having spent time in forced labour and displaced persons camps, Jonas and his brother Adolfas were transported to New York as United Nations refugees. Soon after their arrival in 1949, they became immersed in the city’s rich film culture, attending screenings at mainstream theatres and at the Museum of Modern Art and Amos Vogel’s Cinema 16.

Devoting himself to promoting film as a personal, artistic medium, Mekas was the driving force behind many initiatives that supported alternative forms of cinema. He founded Film Culture magazine in 1954, and wrote the impassioned ‘Movie Journal’ column for the Village Voice from 1958-76. In 1960, Mekas convened The New American Cinema Group, an alliance including Shirley Clarke, Emile de Antonio and others, to encourage independent filmmaking in opposition to the industry. Positioned as an equivalent to Free Cinema and the Nouvelle Vague, their rousing manifesto asserted: “We don’t want false, polished, slick films – we prefer them rough, unpolished, but alive; we don’t want rosy films – we want them the colour of blood.” He also established the Film-Makers’ Cooperative to distribute the rapidly expanding field of avant-garde cinema, and organised regular screenings at the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque. In 1970, he co-founded Anthology Film Archives as a centre for the preservation, study and exhibition of film as an art form.

Throughout this intense period of activity, Mekas was also filming. Early works Guns of the Trees and The Brig were symptomatic of the political unrest of the time, but he soon found his metier in the diary form. In the epic films Lost Lost Lost, Walden and He Stands in a Desert, meetings with luminaries such as John and Yoko, Carl Dreyer or Jackie Onassis receive equal treatment as family dinners or drinks with friends. By impulsively recording brief fragments of his daily life, Mekas fashioned an incredible archive of cultural history during a time of significant change, and a deeply personal account of what it is to be alive.

Our Jonas Mekas season begins with the early works. In January, we will follow the diaries to the present day, and screen films by his contemporaries in tribute to Anthology Film Archives’ extraordinary Essential Cinema collection.

Curated by Mark Webber. With thanks to Benn Northover, Serpentine Gallery and Centre Pompidou. The Jonas Mekas exhibition at Serpentine Gallery is open from 5 December 2012—20 January 2013. 

Jonas Mekas in Conversation

Date: 6 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Thursday 6 December 2012
London BFI Southbank

We are honoured to welcome Jonas Mekas for an in depth conversation on his life and work. A celebrated filmmaker working primarily in the autobiographical form, Mekas is also one of cinema’s great activists, responsible for instigating an entire support structure for independent and avant-garde film. This special event launches our two-month retrospective, and coincides with the opening of his solo exhibition at Serpentine Gallery. Mekas will be in discussion with Sandra Hebron and filmmaker Mike Figgis.

Lost Lost Lost

Date: 7 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Friday 7 December 2012, at 7:10pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

Lost Lost Lost was filmed between 1949-63 and looks back at Mekas’ earliest years in New York. As the author adjusts to a life in exile, he first searches for a sense of community amongst Lithuanian émigrés in Brooklyn before finding kinship in the burgeoning arts scene. A sense of melancholy permeates the film but by the end, Mekas finds ecstasy: paradise regained through cinema. Mekas connects with Lower Manhattan’s poets and filmmakers, and the sixties adventure begins.

Jonas Mekas, Lost Lost Lost, USA, 1976, 180 min
with Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Robert Frank, LeRoi Jones

Also screening Saturday 15 December at 2:50pm.

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

Date: 9 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Sunday 9 December 2012, at 6:20pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

When Jonas Mekas returned to his birthplace for the first time after 27 years abroad, he made one of his most beautiful and poignant films. Visiting his family home in Semeniškiai, he traces the memories of his youth and reconnects with a rural lifestyle centred around farming, cooking and nature. On the way back to New York, Mekas stops in Vienna (his intended destination when he fled Lithuania) to see historic buildings and meet friends from his new life in cinema.

Jonas Mekas, Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania, USA, 1971-72, 82 min
with Adolfas Mekas, Pola Chapelle, Peter Kubelka, Annette Michelson

Also screening Monday 10 December at 8:45pm.

Guns of the Trees

Date: 9 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Sunday 9 December 2012, at 8:40pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

Mekas’ debut feature was an earnest period piece from the same bohemian milieu as Shadows, Pull My Daisy and The Connection. Uncharacteristically narrative, but still largely improvised, it follows the existential struggles of two couples – one black, one white – during the cold war era. Allen Ginsberg’s off-screen declamations include the notorious line ‘I dreamed that J. Edgar Hoover groped me in a silent hall in the Capitol.’ 

Jonas Mekas, Guns of the Trees, USA, 1962, 75 min
Assisted by Adolfas Mekas and Sheldon Rochlin. Poetic interludes Allen Ginsberg. Music Lucia Dlugoszewski. Folk songs Sara & Caither Wiley, Tom Sankey. With Ben Carruthers, Frances Stillman, Argus Speare Juillard, Frank Kuenstler.

Jonas Mekas, Time and Fortune Vietnam Newsreel, USA, 1968, 4 min
Featuring Adolfas Mekas as the War Minister of Lapland

Also screening Sunday 15 December at 6:30pm.

The Brig

Date: 11 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Tuesday 11 December 2012, at 8:45pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

The Living Theatre’s controversial staging of Kenneth Brown’s play ‘The Brig’ terrified audiences with its stark depiction of brutality in a Marine Corps jail. This was truly physical theatre, and Mekas’ camera gets right in the thick of it, creating a cacophonous document that so resembled cinema vérité that it was often mistaken for reality.

Jonas Mekas, The Brig, USA, 1964, 68 min
Edited by Adolfas Mekas. Produced by David Stone. Play by Kenneth Brown, adapted by Judith Malina and Julian Beck for The Living Theatre. With Warren Finnerty, Ben Israel, Rufus Collins.

Jonas Mekas, Film Magazine of the Arts, USA, 1963, 20 min
A commissioned newsreel of the New York art scene featuring Andy Warhol, Robert Whitman and Jasper Johns.

Also screening Friday 14 December at 8:40pm.

Walden (Diaries, Notes and Sketches)

Date: 12 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Wednesday 12 December 2012, at 7pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

Jonas Mekas’ first long diary film, whose subtitle Diaries, Notes and Sketches perfectly encapsulates his impulsive style of filming, records the events of his life from 1964-69. Mekas was at the centre of New York’s avant-garde during this crucial period when the independent film scene intersected with the worlds of art, poetry and music. Walden vibrates with restless energy, and to watch it is to see history unfold.

Jonas Mekas, Walden (Diaries, Notes and Sketches), USA, 1969, 180 min
with Timothy Leary, The Velvet Underground, Stan Brakhage, Hans Richter, Ed Saunders

Also screening Sunday 16 December at 2:50pm.

In Between and other films

Date: 14 December 2012 | Season: Jonas Mekas

Friday 14 December 2012, at 6:20pm
London BFI Southbank NFT2

Jonas Mekas, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, USA, 2003, 15 min
The time capsule Williamsburg, Brooklyn revisits footage shot in Lithuanian immigrant communities in 1950. By 1972, when Mekas returned to neighbourhoods where he lived two decades before, many were reduced to freeways and wastelands.

Jonas Mekas, Award Presentation to Andy Warhol, USA, 1964, 12 min
The pop artist receives a basket of fruit to commemorate the Independent Film Award. In homage to Warhol’s style of filmmaking, the camera lingers as his entourage consumes bananas, apples and mushrooms.

Jonas Mekas, Cassis, USA, 1966, 5 min
A stop-motion sketch of the French port over the course of the day.

Jonas Mekas, In Between 1964-68, USA, 1978, 52 min
Looking again at the period covered in Walden, In Between 1964-68 is composed of material not included in the earlier film. It’s no less fascinating, with extended passages following Salvador Dali in New York, and appearances by Norman Mailer, Diane di Prima, Shirley Clarke and underground superstar Taylor Mead.

Also screening Sunday 16 December at 6:20pm.

Brief Glimpses of Beauty: The Films of Jonas Mekas (Part Two)

Date: 5 January 2013 | Season: Jonas Mekas

5—26 January 2013
London BFI Southbank

‘I live, therefore I make films. I make films, therefore I live.’

The Lithuanian poet and filmmaker Jonas Mekas bought his first Bolex 16mm camera within weeks of arriving in the USA as a displaced person in 1949, and from that point onwards he carried it everywhere. Rather than pursuing conventional forms of cinema, he turned the camera towards his own life, recording brief bursts of images that condense his experiences in a unique diaristic style.

The first part of our season, in December 2012, featured Mekas’ earliest films and documented his first two decades in New York. During this time he was at the centre of the New American Cinema, fostering the exhibition, distribution and critical debate of a radical new film movement. In part two we follow the diaries from the early 1970s to the present day, and further programmes explore the collection of Anthology Film Archives, the film museum that Mekas established to showcase and preserve visionary cinema.

As Mekas became less intensely involved with organising the community of filmmakers, a romantic sensibility came to the fore in his work. Nature and family life become principle themes as he raises young children, and on journeys through the city or on trips abroad, he is often drawn to more bucolic subjects.

He began the shift from film to video in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until Letter from Greenpoint that he felt truly in control of the new medium. Shooting on digital enabled a more capacious style of filming, and led to an extraordinary period of productivity. For the 365 Day Project he transmitted dispatches from his new life in Brooklyn, uploading a new short film to his website every day throughout 2007, and in 2011 he completed no less than five feature-length works including the acclaimed Sleepless Nights Stories.

Jonas Mekas’ work is an ecstatic celebration of life, friendship and the arts. His camera and tape recorder have captured momentous cultural events, but also those precious moments which he refers to as ‘Miracles of the everyday – totally insignificant, but great!’

Curated by Mark Webber. With thanks to Jonas Mekas, Benn Northover, Serpentine Gallery and Centre Pompidou. The Jonas Mekas exhibition at Serpentine Gallery continues until 27 January.