The Serpentine , Centre Pompidou, Paris, and BFI Southbank, London, are each presenting a season of film and video work celebrating Mekas’s contribution to cinema. Film-maker, artist and poet Jonas Mekas (b.1922, Lithuania) has been a leading figure of avant-garde and independent cinema. An exhibition at London’s Serpentine will includes the artist’s film, video and photographic works from throughout his prolific sixty-year career.
The Serpentine exhibition surveys Mekas’s work with moving images, poetry and sound, presenting a selection of film and video works dating from the 1950s through to the present day. The show includes the world premiere of Mekas’s new feature length film, presented as an immersive installation. Stills, film portraits of friends and family and ephemera also punctuate the Serpentine’s spaces, offering a fascinating insight into Mekas’s life and work. As part of the exhibition, Mekas will also be curating and hosting an event in the Gallery.
Mekas brings a poet’s sensibility to the diary film 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 recorded, with great sensitivity, his day-to-day activities as well as those of his peers from the film and arts community in New York.
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 Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol and film-makers Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren. A tireless champion of the independent and avant-garde film movements, he wrote the ‘Movie Journal’ column in Village Voice, set up and edited Film Culture magazine with his brother Adolfas, and founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and Anthology Film Archives.
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. His work in turn has inspired many artists and film-makers to follow in his footsteps. Mike Figgis, Jim Jarmusch, Harmony Korine and Martin Scorsese, among many others, have cited Mekas as a key influence.