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The world celebrates the centenary of Jonas Mekas

The world celebrates the centenary of Jonas Mekas

Lithuanian Culture Institute, together with partners, presents the international programme Jonas Mekas 100! dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Jonas Mekas’ birth. In 2022, for the first time in history, not only Lithuania but also Denmark, Italy, Israel, the USA, the United Kingdom, China, Poland, Russia, South Korea, France, Finland, Sweden, Ukraine, Germany, and other countries will celebrate the life and creative legacy of this avant-garde filmmaker, film critic, writer and poet. On 24-25 November, the programme partners gathered in Vilnius to meet each other and discuss the launch of the year of celebrations.

“Jonas Mekas is one of the most prominent figures in world culture coming from Lithuania and the 100th anniversary of his birth is a unique opportunity to bring together his friends, fans and researchers of his creative work from all over the world, and not only to celebrate Jonas’ exceptional life but also to draw attention to the relevance of his extremely rich and diverse creative legacy,” says Aušrinė Žilinskienė, the director of the Institute. “The centennial programme will allow audiences to get to know this prominent filmininkas (as he liked to introduce himself), poet, chronicler, insightful administrator and an inspiration for his contemporaries and many younger generations originally from Lithuanian village of Semeniškės.”

The International Centennial Programme is the result of a unique collaboration

The programme of more than 50 events, which is still being completed, was prepared in cooperation with the Lithuanian Culture Institute, the team of Lithuanian cultural attachés and the Jonas Mekas Estate, established by Jonas Mekas’ son Sebastian Mekas and the artist’s close friends: director, film curator, film distributor Pip Chodorov and film director Julius Ziz (Žižliauskas).

“It is a diverse, professional and friendly team. Without the ideas, connections and efforts of cultural attachés, the programme would not be as rich as it has become over 18 months. Especially inspiring are the initiative, openness and support of Jonas Mekas’ family and friends,” says Asta Visminaitė, the coordinator of the international programme dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Jonas Mekas birth.

According to one of the initiators of Mekas’ centenary, Julius Ziz, the most important message of the celebrations is to remind people to appreciate everyday life and be generous: “One should see fragments of Paradise in every moment and share it with everyone. Jonas Mekas was doing that all his life”, says Mekas’ friend.

“Jonas Mekas is one of the most significant personalities in the history of art in the 100 years since his birth. Yes, he is more famous in the world than Lithuania itself. This alone is a good reason to promote Lithuania’s name,” says director Ziz.

The logo of the international centenary programme – felt hat and typewriter Olympia

The logo of the international programme was created by the artist’s family and friends together with the designer Anastasia Zizliauskas. The logo is made of Mekas’ authentic signature, which resembles his famous hat, and the inscription “Jonas Mekas 100!” typed on the artist’s beloved typewriter. There is an interesting story behind the inscription. Mekas had added letters of the Lithuanian alphabet to his Olympia Deluxe typewriter purchased in Chicago in 1955, so there was no room left for an exclamation mark. When it was needed, the artist added it by hand. When creating the logo, the exclamation mark was added by his son Sebastian Mekas. The logo has been adapted for use by the design agency Acid.

First events to take place in Belgium, Israel, USA and South Korea

The centenary programme will include film screenings, exhibitions, video installations, concerts, poetry readings, discussion and thematic residency programmes, creative poetry translation workshops, publishing projects and other initiatives.

The programme will be launched as early as January 2022, when the Brussels culture house Flagey will present a programme of Jonas Mekas’ films at the Baltic Sea Festival dedicated to Baltic cinema and music and talks about them. At the end of January 2022, Gothenburg Film Festival will offer its viewers a special retrospective of Mekas’ films. The South Korean publishing house Jiazazhi will publish a translation of Mekas’ book Conversation with Film-Makers: Movie Journal Columns from 1961 to 1975 early next year. Meanwhile, Israeli poetry magazine HO! will publish poems by J. Mekas translated by Sivan Beskin.

In February, the exhibition titled Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running will open at the Jewish Museum in New York. It will also include a monograph of the same name by Kelly Taxter, Inesa Brašiškė and Lukas Brašiškis, which was published at the beginning of November 2021 by Yale University, together with the Jewish Museum and the Lithuanian National Museum of Art.

Various events and initiatives will continue throughout 2022 and beyond. The full list of centenary events Jonas Mekas 100!, its participants, organisers and partners will soon be available on the special online calendar

The partnership has brought together over 60 organisations around the world

The partners of the Jonas Mecca 100! include such esteemed and world-renowned cultural institutions as the Jewish Museum and Lincoln Cinema Center in New York, the Monira Foundation in Jersey City, USA, and Mattatoio in Italy, Tel Aviv’s Felicja Blumental Music Center, HOME – centre for international contemporary art, theatre and film in Manchester, UK, Dusseldorf Film Museum (Germany), the Camargo Foundation (France), Wroclaw’s New Horizons Film Festival (Poland), Tampere Film Festival (Finland), publishing house Spector Books (Germany), Busan Film Festival (South Korea) and other. Extensive film programmes are planned at film institutes in France and Denmark and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinematheques. The programme’s special partner in Lithuania is the Lithuanian Film Centre.

The partners of the international programme met in Vilnius

The majority of the partners and cultural attachés collaborating on Jonas Mekas 100! gathered in Vilnius on 24-25 November to meet each other and discuss the start of Jonas Mekas’ centenary programme.

During the meeting, the guests visited the exhibition Jonas Mekas and the New York Avant-Garde at the National Gallery of Art and later took part in an evening of music and literature specially prepared for them at the Composers’ House. Poet Aušra Kaziliūnaitė gave a talk about Mekas’ poetry, while poet and translator Rimas Užgiris read poems and excerpts from the artist’s diaries. Slam poet and avant-garde rap performer Žygimantas Kudirka-Mesijus and composer Dominykas Digimas presented their works inspired by Jonas Mekas. The piece by Digimas was performed by pianist Marta Finkelštein.

On the second day of the visit, the partners visited Kaunas, where they got acquainted with the Kaunas 2022 programme and attended Kaunas Biennial. On the same evening, guests had the opportunity to watch a screening of Mekas’ film Walden.

The Jonas Mekas 100! programme is coordinated by the Lithuanian Culture Institute and the Jonas Mekas Estate, and partially funded by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania.

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