The art and film worlds love Jonas Mekas. It’s not hard to see why. Mekas first arrived in New York as a refugee from his native Lithuania in 1949. He was given a small Bolex film camera and within a few years he was writing for Village Voice and founding the magazine Film Culture, as well as the now-legendary Anthology Film Archives and the Film-Makers’ Cooperative. He could count figures including Allen Ginsburg, Andy Warhol, Kenneth Anger and Maya Deren as his friends. Serpentine Gallery celebrate the life of the nonagenarian with a career retrospective.
Mekas’ films are visual poems, typified in style as personal diaries. There have been millions of words written about and by the man, none of which I’ll repeat here. His work has been exhibited throughout the world, including at Documenta; the Venice Biennale; MoMA, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Despite his advanced age, he remains a man with real warmth, humour and a zest for life that runs immanently through his films. An auxiliary programme of events will see Mekas holding court at Serpentine Gallery with some well-known well-wishers, including Jefferson Hack and film director Mike Figgis. In deference to the man of the moment, we shall give him the last words…
"I want to celebrate the small forms of cinema, the lyrical forms, the poem, the watercolour, etude, sketch, postcard, arabesque, bagatelle and little 8mm songs. I am standing in the middle of the information highway and laughing, because a butterfly on a little flower somewhere just fluttered its wings, and I know that the whole course of history will drastically change because of that flutter. A super-8 camera just made a little soft buzz somewhere, on New York's Lower East Side, and the world will never be the same"
Jonas Mekas is at Serpentine Gallery until 27 January 2013.