Jonas Mekas @ Serpentine Gallery


Jonas Mekas
5 December 2012 – 27 January 2013

‘I want to celebrate the small forms of cinema, the lyrical forms, the poem, the watercolour, etude, sketch, portrait, arabesque, bagatelle and little 8mm songs. I am standing in the middle of the information highway and laughing, because a butterfly on a little flower somewhere just fluttered its wings, and I know that the whole course of history will drastically change because of that flutter. A super-8 camera just made a little soft buzz somewhere, on New York’s Lower East Side, and the world will never be the same.’ Jonas Mekas

Film-maker, artist and poet Jonas Mekas (b.1922, Lithuania) is a leading figure in modern avant-garde and independent cinema. The Serpentine Gallery is proud to present an exhibition of the artist’s film, video and photographic works from throughout his remarkable and prolific sixty-year career. Coinciding with the Serpentine exhibition, BFI Southbank, London, and Centre Pompidou, Paris, are presenting a season of film and video work celebrating Mekas’s contribution to cinema.

This exhibition will survey Mekas’s work with moving images, poetry and sound, presenting a selection of film and video dating from the 1950s through to the present day. The show will include the world premiere of Mekas’s new feature-length film, presented as an immersive installation. Stills, film portraits of friends and family and ephemera will also punctuate the Serpentine’s spaces, offering a fascinating insight into Mekas’s life and work.

On his arrival in New York in 1949, Mekas bought his first Bolex camera and began to record brief moments of the world around him. He quickly became a central figure in the burgeoning arts community, alongside friends and collaborators such as Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg and film-makers Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren. A tireless champion of the new independent and avant-garde film movements, he wrote the ‘Movie Journal’ column in Village Voice, set up and edited Film Culture magazine with this brother Adolfas, and founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and Anthology Film Archives, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2011. Hero to successive generations of film-makers, from Martin Scorcese and Jim Jarmusch, for whom he is his ‘leader and mentor’ to Mike Figgis and Harmony Korine who cites him as a ‘true hero of the underground’, Mekas continues to exert a powerful influence on the film world and beyond.

Mekas brings a poet’s sensibility to the documentary style that permeates his work. His vision is unique in its ability to capture personal moments of beauty, celebration and joy. Developing his diaristic film style in the 1960s, he has become best known for his ‘film diaries’ in which he records, with great sensitivity, his day-to-day activities as well as those of his peers from the film and arts community in New York.

Mekas’s films and archive material have been exhibited extensively throughout the world, including at Documenta 11; the Venice Biennale 2005; the Whitney Museum of American Art and MoMA PS1, New York; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Baltic Art Center, Sweden; and the Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo.


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