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Jonas Mekas. 100 Years of Cinema, Arts, and Politics

Black and white photograph of Jonas Mekas standing on a street corner in New York, in his hands a book about Maya Deren. In the background is the Anthology Film Archives building.

Jonas Mekas (1922 – 2019) – filmmaker, author, and curator – always said that his works were not political. However, often, the exact opposite was the case. His response to the horrors of the 20th century was to turn to the everyday in an artistic way. He sought an aesthetic form for it in his films, diaries and poems and ascribed it with a force of humanization. The eventful history of the past 100 years is reflected in his work.

Born in Lithuania in 1922, Mekas experienced how the Baltic country was caught between the fronts of National Socialism and Stalinism during his youth. He was forced to leave his homeland in 1944 and vividly describes his escape and imprisonment, life in a labor camp, and in various Displaced Persons Camps, in his diaries. These bear unique witness to the post-war years in Germany and to the life of the Lithuanian diaspora in New York, where he emigrated in 1949 with his younger brother Adolfas. Mekas became an influential networker between various international avant-garde movements, creating spaces for counterculture. He documented this development in his diary films and in the New York Diaries, and at the same time also reflected on his ongoing displacement.
His country of birth remained an important anchor point of his work. With Lithuania's independence and the political integration of the Baltic States into the EU and NATO, the danger of renewed threats seemed to have been averted. Russia's war of aggression on Ukraine has reopened the lines of conflict from the last century, which Mekas had made the subject of his work.

On the 100th anniversary of Jonas Mekas’ birth, the program curated by Christoph Gnädig, Christian Hiller and Anne König addresses the political dimensions of his oeuvre. Panels with filmmakers, artists and like-minded peers explore MEMORIES (18.1.), DISPLACEMENT (19.1.), COUNTER-CULTURE (20.1.), COLD AND NEW WARS (21.1.) and POLITICS OF EVERYDAY (22.1.). In addition to the program in Cinema 1, political video works by Mekas will be installed in Cinema 2. The program will be expanded on the digital platform arsenal 3 with films by Chantal Akerman, Sergei Loznitsa, and Jonas Mekas. There will also be performative readings by Heike Geißler, Eglė Lukšaitė and Goda Palekaitė. Asia Bazdyrieva will from her Ukrainian war diary.
The events will be held in English.

Funded by the Capital Cultural Fund. Project sponsor: ARCH+ Verein zur Förderung des Architektur- und Stadtdiskurses e.V., Berlin; with support from: Lithuanian Culture Institute, Vilnius; Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania, Berlin; Estate of Jonas Mekas, New York; Dovzhenko Centre, Kyiv; Re:Voir, Paris; and Spector Books, Leipzig.

Past screenings

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Funded by:

  • Logo Minister of State for Culture and the Media