Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania

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September 3, 2009

Center for Urban History, Lviv

The godfather of American avant-garde Cinema, Jonas Mekas is considered  to be the inventor of Diarist Cinema, his filmic artwork reveals concurrent qualities of intimacy, spontaneity, lyricism, and supreme selectivity. Through his mastery of extraction from thousands of hours of film footage arise novel, poignant, and vital realizations of our burgeoning world. A collective memoir where life and art are inseparable pronounces the integrity of the personal response to experience and memory. The city itself, prominently perceived and documented within New York by Jonas, is brought to fruition in multitudes. As a muse, the city begets direct declarations of love and acceptance, A Letter to Penny Arcade (2001), personal accounts of monumental artistic happenings, Fluxus on the Hudson (1971), Velvet Underground’s First Public Appearance (1966), social justice upheavals and demonstrations, Bed-In John Lennon and Yoko Ono (1969), manipulations of ordinary daily interaction, The Song of Central Park Hyunjoo (1969), and everyday occurrences with prominent contemporary figures, Salvador Dali, Happenings (1963-64), Allen Ginsberg Sings the Blues (1990). Although New York receives much attention from the artist, living and working there since 1949, he is no stranger to the sensitivity and sincerity within himself and of the cities he visits to inspire artistic understanding and interpretation. Birth of a Nation (1997), a fast-paced parade of 160 underground film people he captured on film over four decades, described as, "160 portraits or rather appearances, sketches and glimpses of avant-garde, independent filmmakers and film activists between 1955 and 1996." The work exclaims through historical and biographical magnitude those involved in the development and expansion of the invisible, yet essential nation of cinema often easily overlooked and underestimated. The struggle and glory of the avant-garde is of utmost importance to Jonas as he continues to educate and inspire those towards refreshing, original manifestations of oppositional cinema, as Jonas so boldly defines, always challenging, always governing our experience, involvement, and response to the heartfelt relationship between life and art.

Media Depo together with Jonas Mekas Center of Visual Arts in Volnius will show film

Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971-1972, 16mm, color/so, 82 min)
The film consists of three parts.

1/ The first part is made up of footage I shot with my first Bolex, during my first years in America, mostly from 1950-1953. It shows me and my brother Adolfas, how we looked in those days; miscellaneous footage of immigrants in Brooklyn, picnicking, dancing, singing; the streets of Williamsburg.

2/ The second part was shot in August 1971, in Lithuania. Almost all of the footage comes from Semeniskiai, the village I was born in. You see the old house, my mother (born 1887), all the brothers, goofing, celebrating our homecoming. You don't really see how Lithuania is today: you see it only through the memories of a Displaced Person back home for the first time in twenty-five years.

3/ The third part begins with a parenthesis in Elmshorn, a suburb of Manburg, where we spent a year in a forced labor camp during the war. After the parenthesis closes, we are in Vienna where we see some of my best friends - Peter Kubelka, Hermann Nitsch, Annette Michelson, Ken Jacobs. The film ends with the burning of the Vienna fruit market, August, 1971.

Screening is part of the Week of Contemporary Art in Lviv


Сover Image: Still from the  Jonas Mekas, Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (UK, West Germany, Lithuania) 1972.