On the evening of 29 November, MO Museum visitors could experience the atmosphere of the New York avant-garde of the 1960s. The Museum opened a small exhibition “Mekas Winks Better”.
Many prominent figures in frozen film frames
MO Museum exhibition features frozen film frames with various art legends and a number of famous figures by Jonas Mekas. Yet Mekas did not see them as cult figures but as friends, fragile and vulnerable loved ones.
The images of Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, Elvis Presley or Jurgis Mačiūnas, seen in Mekas’ footage, are not purposefully captured but are part of New York’s overall cultural context. “All these people approached me: Jurgis Mačiūnas, Salvador Dalí, Jackie Kennedy, Yoko Ono, John Lennon and all others; I did not need them, I did not know them and I was not looking for them,” Mekas himself had asserted.
“Mekas’ openness to the world and others is very close to MO Museum. This small exhibition is an important supplement to other exhibitions at MO. It is the theme of freedom that links it with the 1990s. Authentic Mekas’ posture, lack of chasing after recognition and just remaining himself counterbalances the need for external validation and recognition captured in the major exhibition “The Origin of Species: 1990’s DNA”. And this spring, when we will open our new big exhibition “Why is it Difficult to Love?”, these exhibitions will be linked by the theme of our openness to each other,” says Milda Ivanauskienė, Director at MO Museum.
Compared to who does Mekas wink better?
An exhibition has an intriguing title that may pose the question: why and compared to who does Mekas wink better? In 1964 Mekas attended the happenings organised by Salvador Dalí. While filming one of them, Dalí provocatively winked at Mekas, who immediately winked him back, completely undisturbed. This video can be also seen in the exhibition.
“For Mekas, winking is not an unconscious seizure or pretend parody. He mentions winking as a way of communication that can take on many meanings: expressing acceptance or resentment, disgust or admiration. The exchanges of winks between modernist Dalí and postmodernist Mekas reveal the latter’s openness to the otherness,” says Edmondas Kelmickas, Curator of the exhibition.
Winking is also associated with films. “The intense winking by Mekas during the happening can be symbolically associated with film editing. By editing his films frame-by-frame, Mekas creates a sequence that viewers can observe wink after wink,” notes another curator of the exhibition Deima Žuklytė-Gasperaitienė.
Capturing friends and fellows
Mekas films most often feature the people he had met: fellow filmmakers, musicians, visual artists and friends. Mekas was capturing everyone, including celebrities, friends and his closest family members.
Alongside prominent figures throughout the exhibition, images of Mekas children Sebastian and Oona, as well as his wife Holly Melton appear. This once again confirms that Mekas did not emphasise the heroes he was filming. For him, each person was interesting, unique and worthy of being captured.
“Mekas’ creative work is very personal. He wrote and filmed his daily routine, meetings and travels. And yet, speaking of himself, he was able to speak of universal things that everyone can easily identify with,” says Žuklytė-Gasperaitienė.
She also adds that the purpose of the exhibition is to show how people-legends are born, and Mekas was definitely one. “It is interesting that Mekas became a legend without any deliberate attempt to become one, as he was not looking for famous people, he was not trying to get to know them just so he could capture them with his camera,” she adds.
Mekas did not create new collages when choosing his shots and left their sequence as it happened to be during film editing. Thus, at MO Museum, viewers can feel as if they were watching a film, which is reinforced by the way the frames are displayed as well as the architecture of the exhibition.
The wall of the Small Hall is constructed as a theatrical folded curtain, and the frames are displayed continuously as a film.
Mekas had an incredible ability to appear at places where insignificant daily meetings easily turned into history-changing events. Visitors of the exhibition may feel just the same. There are mirrors exhibited among the frozen film frames where viewers can see themselves interfering with the Mekas-esque everyday life.
Entire evening of New York beats
Coincidences and the charm of the moment were very important for Mekas; in the same way visitors of the opening show could enjoy the atmosphere of New York City at MO Museum. This feeling was reinforced by a music playlist specially selected for the exhibition opening evening by Dovydas Bluvšteinas.
Museum visitors had the opportunity to remember or once more hear the performers of Velvet Underground, Talking Heads, Yoko Ono, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and others.
The exhibition at MO Museum will run until 16 August 2020. Curators of the exhibition – Edmondas Kelmickas and Deima Žuklytė-Gasperaitienė, author of the exposition – Gytis Skudžinskas, images printed by Arūnas Kulikauskas.