Filmmaker, artist, poet: Jonas Mekas is dead
He was the godfather of American avant-garde cinema: Jonas Mekas, key figure in New American Cinema, became known for his work with Andy Warhol and John Lennon. He died at the age of 96.
He was an artist and made sure that the art of others was seen and heard. Jonas Mekas was a poet and filmmaker, film critic and musician, wine lover and a loud voice for independent, artistic cinema. Now he died at the age of 96 in his apartment in New York.
Mekas came as a war refugee in the United States, he was born in 1922 in Lithuania. In 1944 he was imprisoned and spent eight months in a labor camp in Elsmhorn. In Mainz, Mekas studied philosophy for two years after the end of the war, before emigrating to the USA with his brother Adolfas, later also a filmmaker.
New York became his second home, where he bought a 16mm camera shortly after his arrival and began to film his everyday life. It later became his trademark: diary films in which he captured moments of his life in the form of poetic essays, fleeting, delicate, alienated. "Walden" was the first in 1966, others like "Lost, Lost, Lost" and the four-hour "As I Was Moving Ahead, Occasionally I Saw Letter Glimpses Of Beauty" followed over the decades.
Mekas lived up to his love for the cinema and the movie. In the fifties he founded the magazine "Film Culture", which lasted until 1996. He wrote countless film reviews for the New York City magazine "The Village Voice", in which he campaigned for freer forms of cinematic narrative, without playing the artistic film against the Hollywood narrative formula.
Read an interview with Jonas Mekas here
In 1970, Mekas finally founded the Anthology Film Archives, which still houses the world's largest collection of avant-garde film art. At this time, Mekas was already the alcohol rector of independent American cinema, which had already peaked in the sixties with works by John Cassavetes, Shirley Clarke and Robert Frank.
Films with Warhol, Dalí, Lennon
Mekas inspired Andy Warhol to make films, working with him on his eight-hour work Empire. He filmed Salvador Dalí and John Lennon, became a friend of Jacqueline Kennedy, and had the band "The Velvet Underground" rehearse in his apartment. The underground and pop culture of the sixties and seventies is inconceivable without the influence of Jonas Mekas.
His creativity later sought new ways. In 2007, he published a movie about every day on his website, the work is titled "The 365 Day Project". In Lithuania he is a well-known poet who has published several volumes. In Vilnius, the Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center was opened in 2007.
Mekas was married and leaves two children behind. About himself and his work, he said: "People think too much and they take themselves too seriously I live without a plan My biggest discovery was to understand that I have nothing to do: All I have to do is admit that things can happen (... ...) Taking oneself seriously, be it in art or in life, is nonsensical, art or life without humor is not worth living. "