Jonas Mekas
Born in 1922 in Semeniškiai (Lithuania).
Lives in New York (USA).
Outtakes From the Life of a Happy Man, 2012
Film, 68 min. Courtesy of the artist and Re:Voir company
Jonas Mekas created his film "Outtakes From the Life of a Happy Man" in 2012, thereby marking the artist's 90th birthday. It is in some sense a retrospective work – the author calls it "film as a film". It was assembled from old footage not included in his previously released pieces. It is a series of faded old film edited in a seemingly random order into a flowing endless sequence, accompanied by the occasionally mantra-like mumbled narration of the artist: "Just images... passing by... this is not a memory... this is all real...just images...nothing different... purpose just for myself... nothing happens in this film..." Mekas became a classic of avant- garde cinema but he started out as a poet. He recollects that it was in diaristic cinema that he discovered a language that let him convey to everyone the devastating experience of World War II without having to resort to the literary translation. War, he testified, broke reality into a thousand bleeding fragments and all that is left to his generation is to travel "collecting the broken bits and pieces of knowledge, of love, of hope, of old ages". The stream of images, the spontaneity, the dissolving of art in biography – all these characteristics of Mekas' poetry connects him to many other artists of his generation, especially the Fluxsus movement, a founding member of which was his friend and fellow Lithuanian George Maciunas. The fragmentary and haphazard assembly is what lets the viewer read the cinematic language and be immediately immersed in the subject shown: the footage of life. At the same time the fragmentariness depersonalizes the pieces of life offered to the viewer by breaking the coherent narrative. They appear not just as scenes from someone's life, but of life in general, including your own. Mekas had to survive forced labor and displaced persons camps, emigrate, walk the path of an irreconcilable nonconformist to come to the realization at 90 years of age that he had had a happy life. And only by creating a hundred works did he appreciate that from the once discarded footage a masterpiece could be created. He had to see his lifeworld on faded, dissipating film to understand that he had loved it unconditionally all these years.
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
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