On May 6, 2016, the JMVAC launched the Lithuanian translation of Illegal Living: 80 Wooster Street and the Evolution of SoHo.
This book is about George Maciunas and the first cooperative in New York that was in SoHo at 80 Wooster Street. The address is well known to all fans of the Fluxus art movement as well as art historians. It took the authors six years to complete the book that required extensive research and various types of documentation.
The idea for SoHo as a residential neighborhood for artists was thought up by Lithuanian emigre George Maciunas. He fully understood that artists require a special environment in which to live and to create and that is why he so passionately persevered that his vision would become reality. Illegally occupying run down and empty indusrial buildings and starting the first studios/lofts in them for artists, George Maciunas and Jonas Mekas not only created a totally unique community of world renowned artists, but also helped to save this unique part of New York and a part of the world’s cultural heritage.
It is especially wonderful to know that if it were not for two passionate Lithuanians – George Maciunas and Jonas Mekas – this unique neighborhood would not exist at all because the local New York government at the time had planned to raze the unused industrial buildings to the ground to make room for more skyscrapers.
The community of artists brought together by George Maciunas in the SoHo area were perhaps “illegal” in terms of the residential laws at the time, but, as Jonas Mekas says, “If a person is alive, he can’t be illegal.”
The English language edition of Illegal Living was published in 2010 and was selected as Book of the Year. We have no doubt that the Lithuanian edition will also be popular with readers, researchers and historians.
Both authors of the book, Roslyn Bernstein and Shael Shapiro, attended the book launch in Vilnius.
ILLEGAL LIVING: Pages 6, 9, 11, 12, 21, 22, 25, 27, 34, 37, 38, 41, 46. 50, 53, 57, 58, 275, 278, 300.
The exhibition included slides provided and commented on by the authors. A “sculptural object” was also showcased at the opening that had been created from the boxes of books. The sculptural object represents itself and the printed material and has the ability to change its form depending on the situation at hand.
The book launch became a mini-project/exhibition during which visual material was shown from the book: the history of the building in SoHo, as well as documentary slides of George Maciunas’ friendship with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, as well as the activities that went into the creation of the artists’ cooperative.