Jonas Mekas Interviewed by Hyperallergic

March 24th, 2016

Throughout the entirety of his decades-long career, the avant-garde filmmaker and poet Jonas Mekas has purveyed a world of his own specific making. In the storied, hours-long film WaldenDiaries, Notes, and Sketches, the immediacy of each moment — sunlight on a girl’s legs, Stan Brakhage walking through a park, a cat nibbling on Mekas’ croissant, women rallying for peace in Times Square, John Lennon and Yoko Ono enacting their bed-in — is bestowed with poetic significance. Mekas states in the same film: “I live, therefore I make films; I make films, therefore I live.”

There is no real separation between his art and life, or between the mundane and extraordinary. Mekas, one of the artists who helped jumpstart the Fluxus movement, still uploads video diaries to his website, documenting conversations, snowstorms, and flowers on windowsills. In this sense, his work feels as relevant as it did upon his 1949 arrival in New York; while media has shifted dramatically, Mekas keeps working, adapting to every passing decade.

Born Christmas Eve, 1922, in Semeniskiai, Lithuania, Mekas was interned at a Nazi labor camp before living in a Belgian Displaced Persons camp, studying philosophy at the University of Mainz, and immigrating to the US with his brother. In addition to Mekas’s numerous films (and cofounding the Anthology Film Archives in New York), he has published over 20 volumes of written work; he often uses the terms “filmmaker” and “poet” interchangeably. There is a scene in Walden — it is wintertime in the park and crowds of people move this way and that. His voice narrates: “Cinema is light, movement … light, heart beating, breathing, life, frames.” One might argue that, at its core, human life is comprised of little else.

Obsolete Media Miami, a self-described “experimental art project, a picture and moving image archive, and resource for artists, designers, and filmmakers,” will present a screening of Walden at the Miami Design District’s Palm Court this Saturday. The screening runs concurrently with Jonas Mekas: Let Me Introduce Myself, an exhibition featuring his Destruction Quartet, at Gallery Diet. In light of these events, we spoke with Mekas about the passage of time and the inherent poetry of both filmmaking and living.

See the full interview online here.