Camera Was Always Running | Jonas Mekas
Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running explores the breadth and import of Mekas’s life art and legacy in the field of the moving image. Coinciding with the centennial of
Jonas Mekas: The Camera Was Always Running explores the breadth and import of Mekas’s life art and legacy in the field of the moving image. Coinciding with the centennial of his birth the exhibition surveys Mekas’s 70-year career and includes 11 films presented in an immersive environment photography and previously unseen archival materials.
Forced to flee his native Lithuania during the final moments of World War II in 1944 Mekas was unable to return until 1971. After spending five years stateless and homeless in a Nazi work camp and then Displaced Persons camps throughout Germany Mekas (b. 1922 Semeniškiai Lithuania; d. 2019 Brooklyn New York) emigrated to New York City with his brother Adolfas in 1949. A penniless war-weary refugee he swiftly integrated into the city’s thriving counterculture nonetheless becoming a central organizer and later a prolific filmmaker within the avant-garde community. Like many emigrés in the aftermath of World War II—as for so many across the globe today—his art was profoundly marked by his refugee experience: the loss memory and longing for a home he permanently left behind in 1944. The relationship between exile and creativity is always at the heart of his work and is the exhibition’s central theme.
Over seven decades Mekas made 93 films and videos amassing footage that was both a record of his life and a resource for his art. He was the author founder and co-founder of numerous artist-run cooperatives distribution networks and writings on film: in 1954 he co-founded Film Culture the first journal of American film criticism; from 1958-71 he penned “Movie Journal” the first critical column on cinema in the Village Voice; in 1962 he co-founded The Film-makers’ Co-op among the earliest organizations to support experimental film production screening and distribution on a large scale; in 1969 he co-founded Anthology Film Archives which became—and remains—a focal point for New York’s experimental cinema scene; and finally between 1968 and 1971 the Film-makers’ Co-op presented the screening and conversation series Avant Garde Tuesdays at the Jewish Museum.