Jonas Mekas


Jonas Mekas (24 12 1922 – 23 01 2019) was born in 1922 in the farming village of Semeniškiai, Lithuania. In 1944, he and his brother Adolfas were taken by the Nazis to a forced labor camp in Elmshorn, Germany. After the War he studied philosophy at the University of Mainz. At the end of 1949 the UN Refugee Organization brought both brothers to New York City, where they settled down in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Two months after his arrival in New York he borrowed money to buy his first Bolex camera and began to record brief moments of his life. He soon got deeply involved in the American Avant-Garde film movement. In 1954, together with his brother, he started Film Culture magazine, which soon became the most important film publication in the US. In 1958 he began his legendary Movie Journal column in the Village Voice. In 1962 he founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative, and in 1964 the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which eventually grew into Anthology Film Archives, one of the world’s largest and most important repositories of avant-garde cinema, and a screening venue.

During all this time he continued writing poetry and making films. To this date he has published more than 20 books of prose and poetry, which have been translated into over a dozen languages. His Lithuanian poetry is now part of Lithuanian classic literature and his films can be found in leading museums around the world. He is largely credited for developing the diaristic forms of cinema. Mekas has also been active as an academic, teaching at the New School for Social Research, the International Center for Photography, Cooper Union, New York University, and MIT.

Mekas’ film The Brig was awarded the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1963. Other films include Walden (1969), Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1972), Lost Lost Lost (1975), Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol (1990), Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (1992), As I was Moving Ahead I saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000), Letter from Greenpoint (2005), Sleepless Nights Stories (2011) and Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man. In 2007, he completed a series of 365 short films released on the internet — one film every day — and since then has continued to share new work on his website.

Since 2000, Mekas has expanded his work into the area of film installations, exhibiting at the Serpentine Gallery, the Centre Pompidou, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Moderna Museet (Stockholm), PS1 Contemporary Art Center MoMA, Documenta of Kassel, the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and the Venice Biennale.

Honors and Awards

Jonas Mekas has received numerous grants and awards, including from the New York State Council on the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Albright Knox Gallery, and the Long Wharf Theater Foundation, and is a member of the American Center of P.E.N and the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts.

1962 Grand Prize awarded to GUNS OF THE TREES at the Porretta Terme Film Festival
1964 Grand Prize (Documentary) awarded to THE BRIG at the Venice Film Festival
1966 Gold Medal, Philadelphia College of Art, “for the devotion, passion, and selfless dedication to the rediscovery of the newest art”
1977 Guggenheim Fellowship
1989 Creative Arts Award, Brandeis University
1992 Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture, France
  Mel Novikoff Award, San Francisco Film Festival
1995 Lithuanian National Award
1996 Special Tribute, New York Film Critics Circle Award
  Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, Kansas City Art Institute
1997 Pier Paolo Pasolini Award, Paris
  International Documentary Film Association Award, Los Angeles
  Governors Award, Skohegan School of Painting and Sculpture
  Doctor of Fine Arts, Honoris Causa, Universitatis Vytauti Magni, Lituania
2000 Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture, France
2006 REMINISCENCES OF A JOURNEY TO LITHUANIA added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress
  Directors Guild of America Award
2007 Los Angeles Film Critics Association awards special citation for “contribution to film art”
  Special Award from the Roswitha Haftmann Foundation, Zürich
2008 Baltic Cultural Achievement Award
  Austrian Decoration of Honor for Science and Art (Õsterreichische Ehrenzeichen für Wissenschaft und Kunst)
2010 Life Achievement Award at the second annual Rob Pruitt’s Art Awards
2011 George Eastman Honorary Scholar Award
2012 ‘Carry Your Light and Believe’ Award, Ministry of Culture, Lithuania
2013 Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture, France
  Francis J. Greenburger Award
2015 Yoko Ono Courage Award
2017 Elected member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts

Select List of Exhibitions

1983 Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
1992 Galerie National du Jeu de Paume, Paris
  agnès b. Galerie du Jour, Paris
  Still Gallery, Edinburgh
  Luarence Miller, New York
  Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Tokyo
  agnès b. Galerie du Jour, Paris
1997 Madrid Art Fair
  Museum of Contemporary Art, Vilnius
1998 “Le Printemps de Cahors,” Musée de Cahors Henri-Martin
  Gandy Gallery, Prague
1999 Susan Inglett Gallery, New York
  Pupelis Gallery, Obeliai, Lithuania
  agnès b. Galerie du Jour, Paris
2000 “La Beautè” festival, Avignon. Films and installation
  “Laboratorium,” Antwerp
  “Voilà,” Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
  agnès b Galerie du jour, FIAC art fair, Paris
2002 Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris
  Documenta 11, Kassel
2003 “Jonas Mekas: A Camera for Jonas,” Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris
  Utopia Station Pavilion, Venice Biennale. Installation
  “Dedication to Fernand Léger,” Museum of Contemporary Art, Vilnius
  Sideshow Gallery, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Frozen film frames
  Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris. Frozen film frames
  “Fables de l’Identité,” Centre National de la Photographie, Paris. Frozen film frames
2005 “Farewell to Soho,” Moderna Museet, Stockholm
  “Fragments of Paradise,” Maya Stendhal Gallery, New York
  “As I Was Moving Ahead,” representing Lithuania at the 51st edition of the Venice Biennale
2006 “Destruction Quartet,” Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney
  “Onestar Stop,” Galerie Erna Hécey, Brussels
  “The Expanded Eye,” Kusthalle Zürich
  Baltic Art Center, Visby
  Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.
  “To New York with Love,” Gallery Toki no Wasuremono, Tokyo
  “He Stands in the Desert Counting the Seconds of his Life,” Tamayo Contemporary Art Museum, Mexico City.
  “The Diary Film,” Göteborgs Konsthall, Sweden
  “It All Comes Back Now in Glimpses,” Sketch Gallery, London
  “Brief Glimpses of Beauty,” Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Center, UK
  Centrum Sztuki Współczesnej Zamek Ujazdowski, Warsaw
2007 “Recent Work,” Maya Stendhal Gallery, New York
  Serpentine Gallery, London
  The Film Gallery, FIAC art fair, Paris
  “Jonas Mekas: The Beauty of Friends being Together,” MoMA/P.S.1
  Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius
  “My Night Life” (with Auguste Varkalis), The Film Gallery, Paris
2008 Fondazione Ragghianti, Lucca
  Museum Ludwig, Cologne
2009 “1968,” Kunsthalle Bielefeld, Germany
  “A Few Things I Want to Share with You, My Paris Friends,” agnès b. Galerie du jour, Paris
  “The Beast,” FIAC art fair, The Film Gallery, Paris
  “Destruction Quartet,” James Fuentes Gallery, New York
  “1989,” Kunsthalle Wien
  “Jonas Mekas,” Gallery Toki no Wasuremono, Tokyo
  “To New York with Love,” Bas Fisher Invitational, Miami
  “Destruction Quartet,” Kings County Biennial, Brooklyn
2010 “Cassis,” James Fuentes Gallery, New York Armory Show
  The Brucennial, New York
  “To New York with Love,” James Fuentes Gallery, New York
2011 “Musique Plastique,” agnès b. Galerie du jour, Paris
  agnès b. Howard Street boutique, New York
  “This Side of Paradise,” agnès b. Rue du Jour boutique, Paris
2012 “Portraits: Jonas Mekas and Robert Polidori,” Edwynn Houk Gallery, New York
  “Musique Plastique,” agnès b. Howard Street boutique, New York
  “The 365 Day Project,” 2B Gallery, Budapest
  “Reminiszenzen aus Deutschland,” Stadtmuseum, Wiesbaden
  “Prisiminimai iš Vokietijos,” Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius
  “Images out of Darkness,” James Fuentes Gallery, New York
  Serpentine Gallery, London
  “The 365 Day Project,” Centre Pompidou, Paris
2013 DOX Centre for Contemporary Art, Prague
  MUAC, Mexico City
  “I Lift My Glass of Wine to You, My Vienna Friends!,” Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna
  Paris Photo L.A., Deborah Colton Gallery, Los Angeles
  “Outlaw: New Works,” Microscope Gallery, Brooklyn
  agnès b. Marseille
  “The Sixties Quartet,” KIASMA, Helsinki
  “Let Me Introduce Myself, My Russian Friends!” State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
  “Jonas Mekas: In Praise of the Ordinary,” The Phi Centre, Montreal
  “Jonas Mekas / The Fluxus Wall,” Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels
  “Life Goes On… I Keep Singing,” Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston
2014 “Jonas Mekas: One Man Show,” Cēsis Arts Festival, Latvia
  “365 Day Project,” ZKM, Karlsruhe
2015 “Frozen Film Frames: Portraits of Filmmakers,” Schnitzer Museum of Art, Eugene, Oregon
  Internet Saga Pavilion, Venice, Italy
  “All These Images, These Sounds,” A Palazzo Gallery, Brescia, Italy
2016 “Let Me Introduce Myself,” Nina Johnson Gallery, Miami
2017 Documenta 14, Athens and Kassel
  “I Sing I Celebrate,” La Neomudéjar, Madrid
  Boo-Hooray Summer Rental, Montauk

Cup/Saucer/Two Dancers/Radio (1965/1983), 23 min.
Guns of the Trees (1962), 75 min.
Film Magazine of the Arts (Summer, 1963), 20 min.
The Brig (1964), 68 min.
Award Presentation to Andy Warhol (1964), 12 min.

Report from Millbrook (1965/ 1966), 12 min.
Walden (Diaries, Notes, and Sketches), (filmed 1964-1968, edited 1968-69), 3 hrs.
Hare Krishna (1966), 4 min.

Notes on the Circus (1966), 12 min.
Cassis (1966), 4 min.
The Italian Notebook (1967), 15 min.
Time and Fortune Vietnam Newsreel (1968), 4 min.
Reminiscences of a Journey to Lithuania (1971-1972), 82 min.
Lost Lost Lost (1976), 2 hrs. 58 min.
In Between: 1964-8 (1978), 52 min.

Notes for Jerome (1978), 45 min.
Paradise Not Yet Lost (aka Oona’s Third year) (1979), 96 min.
Self-Portrait (1980), 20 min., video
Street Songs (1966/1983) 10 min.

Erik Hawkins: Excerpts from “Here and Now with Watchers”/Lucia Dlugoszewski Performs (1963/1983), 6 min.
He Stands in a Desert Counting the Seconds of His Life (1969/1985), 2 hrs. 30 min.
Scenes from the Life of Andy Warhol (1990), 35 min.
A Walk (1990), 58 min., video
Mob of Angels: Baptism (1990), 61 min., video

Mob of Angels at St. Ann (1991), 60 min, video
Dr. Carl G. Jung or Lapis Philosophorum (1991), 29 min.
Quartet Number One (1991) 8 min.
Zefiro Torna or Scenes from the Life of George Maciunas (1992), 34 min.
The Education of Sebastian or Egypt Regained (1992), 6 hrs. video

Imperfect 3-Image films (1995), 6 min.
On My Way to Fujiyama (1995), 25 min.
Happy Birthday to John (1996), 24 min.
Cinema is Not 100 Years Old (1996), 4 min., video

Memories of Frankenstein (1996), 95 min.
Letters to Friends (1997), 1 hr. 28 min., video
Birth of a Nation (1997), 85 min.
Symphony of Joy (1997), 1 hr. 15 min.
Scenes from Allen’s Last Three Days on Earth as a Spirit (April 1997), 67 min., video
Letter from Nowhere — Laiškai iš niekur N.1 (1997), 75 min., video [in Lithuanian]

Song of Avignon (1998), 5 min.
Laboratorium Anthology (1999), 63 min., video
This Side of Paradise (1999) 35 min., 16 mm
Notes on the Factory (1999) 64 min., video

Notes on Film-Maker’s Cooperative (1999), 40 min., video
Autobiography of a Man Who Carried his Memory in his Eyes (2000) 53 min., video
As I Was Moving Ahead Occasionally I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty (2000) 4 hrs. 48 min.
Mozart & Wien and Elvis (2000) 3 min.

Silence, Please (2000), 6 min., video
Requiem for a Manual Typewriter (2000) 19 min., video
Remedy for Melancholy (2000) 20 min., video

Letter to Penny Arcade (2001), 14 min. 33 sec., video
Ein Märchen (2001) 6 min., video
Ar Buvo Karas? (2002), 2 hrs. 28 min.
Mysteries (1966/2002) 34 min.
Williamsburg, Brooklyn (1949/2002) 15 min.
Travel Songs 1967-1981 (2003) 28 min.
Letter from Greenpoint (2004) 80 min., video
Notes on Utopia (2003-5) 55 min., video
Father and Daughter (2005), 4 min. 30 sec., video

Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese (2005), 1hr 20 min.
Scenes from the Life of Hermann Nitsch (2005), 58 min., film and video
First Forty (2006). Forty short films, using materials from earlier films, re-edited specially for internet and installations.
365 Day Project (2007). 365 short films, one for each calendar day of the year 2007.
Lithuania and the Collapse of the USSR (2008), 4 hrs. 49 min., video
I Leave Chelsea Hotel (2009), 4 min.
Sleepless Nights Stories (2011), 114 min.

My Paris Movie (2011), 2 hrs. 39 min.
My Bars Bar Movie (2011), 86 min.
Correspondences: José Luis Guerin and Jonas Mekas (2011), 99 min.
Re: George Maciunas and Fluxus (2011), 87 min.
Mont Ventoux (2011), 3 min.
Happy Easter Ride (2012), 18 min.
Reminiszenzen aus Deutschland (2012), 25 min.
Out-takes from the Life of a Happy Man (2012), 68 min.

Writings by Jonas Mekas

Knyga Apie Karalius ir Žmones, Tubingen, 1947 [in Lithuanian].
Movie Journal, Macmillan, 1972: Japanese edition, 1975. Spanish edition, 1976; French edition, 1992.
Three Friends: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Maciunas, Tokyo, 1990 [in Japanese]; Lithuanian edition, Vilnius, 1998.
Laiškai iš niekur, Vilnius, 1997 [in Lithuanian].
Just Like A Shadow, text by Jerome Sans, frozen film frames by Jonas Mekas, Steidl, Göttingen, 2000.
Declarations de Paris, Editions Paris Expérimental, 2001 [in French and English].

As I Was Moving Ahead…, Editions Kinoshita, Tokyo, 2002 [in Japanese]. Text and narration from the film.
Fluxfriends (French edition of Three Friends: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, and George Maciunas), Centre Georges Pompidou, 2002.
Artist Book, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 2002.
Entretiens avec Jonas Mekas, Editions Paris Expérimental, 2006.

Anecdotes, translated by Jean-Luc Mengus, SCALI, Paris, 2007 [in French].

Trys draugai: Jurgis Mačiūnas, Yoko Ono, John Lennon, Baltos lankos, 2007

To Petrarca, Editions Dis Voir, Paris, 2009 [in both French and English editions]

Žmogus prie lyjančio lango, Baltos lankos, 2010

Articles on cinema in Film Culture, Sight & Sound, Bianco e Nero, The New York Times, Cahiers du Cinema, Isskustvo Kino, etc.


Semeniškių Idilės, Lithuanian edition, Žvilgsniai, Kassel, 1948; Japanese edition, Tokyo, 1996; enlarged Lithuanian edition, Vilnius, Baltos Lankos 1997.
Gėlių Kalbėjimas, Chicago, 1961 [in Lithuanian].
Pavieniai Žodžiai, Lithuanian edition, Chicago, 1967; Japanese edition, Tokyo, 1996.
Poezija, Vilnius, Vaga, 1971 [in Lithuanian].
Reminiscensijos, New York, Fluxus, 1972 [in Lithuanian].
Dienoraščiai, New York, Žvilgsniai, 1985 [in Lithuanian].
There is No Ithaca (English edition of Semeniškių Idilės and Reminiscensijos), translated by Vyt Bakaitis, Black Thistle Press, New York, 1996.
Dienų Raštai, Vilnius, Baltos lankos 1998 [in Lithuanian].

Žmogus Be Vietos (Lithuanian edition of I Had Nowhere to Go), Baltos Lankos, 2000.
Poezija, Lietuvos Rašytojų Sąjungos Leidykla, Vilnius, 2002 [in Lithuanian].
Daybooks 1970-1972 (bilingual edition of Dienų Raštai), translated by Vyt Bakaitis, Portable Press, Brooklyn, 2003.
Žodžiai ir Raidės, Baltos Lankos, Vilnius, 2007 [in Lithuanian].

Idylls of Semeniškiai (bilingual edition), translated by Adolfas Mekas, Hallelujah Editions, 2007.


I Had Nowhere to Go: Diaries, 1944-1954, Black Thistle Press, New York, 1991.
Zefiro Torna or Scenes From the Life of George Mačiunas, Arthouse, New York, 1998.

Žmogus Be Vietos (Lithuanian edition of I Had Nowhere to Go), Baltos Lankos, 2000.
Lettres de nulle part (French edition of Laiškai iš niekur, translated by Marielle Vitureau), Paris Expérimental, 2003.
Je n’avais nulle part où aller (French edition of I Had Nowhere to Go), P.O.L, Paris, 2004.
My Night Life (English, Italian, Lithuanian, and French editions), illustrated by Auguste Varkalis, Baltos Lankos, Vilnius, 2006.
Ningún lugar adonde ir (Spanish edition of I Had Nowhere to Go, translated by Leonel Livchits), Caja Negra, Buenos Aires, 2008.


Jonas Mekas, Hara Museum of Contempory Art, Tokyo, 1983.
Jonas Mekas, Galerie nationale du Jeu de paume, Paris, 1992.
Jonas Mekas: Films immobiles, une celebration, Galerie du Jour, Paris, 1996.
Jonas Mekas: Frozen Film Frames, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, 1996 [in Japanese].
Sustabdytos akimirkos, Contemporary Art Museum, Vilnius, 1997.
Jonas Mekas: This Side of Paradise, Galerie du Jour, Paris, 1999.
Jonas Mekas: Coversations, Letters, Notes, Misc. Pieces, edited by Liutauras Psibilskis, published by the Lithuanian Art Museum on the occasion of the Venice Biennale, 2005.
The Diary Film/Dagboksfilmen, edited by Liutauras Psibilskis, Moderna Museet, Stokholm, 2005.
The Avante-garde from Futurism to Fluxus, Jonas Mekas Visual Arts Center, Vilnius, 2007 [in English and Lithuanian editions].
Jonas Mekas, Fondazione Ragghianti, Lucca, Italy, 2008 [in Italian].
Jonas Mekas, published by Koenig Books, on the occasion of the exhibition “Jonas Mekas” at the Museum Ludwig, Cologne, 2008 [in English and German].
A Few Things I Want to Share with You, My Paris Friends, Galerie du Jour, Paris, 2009.

Writings About Jonas Mekas

Alberto Arbasino, Entre el underground y el off-off, Anagrama, Barcelona, 1970.
Judith E. Briggs, Jonas Mekas (Filmmakers filming monograph), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 1980.
David James, To Free the Cinema: Jonas Mekas and the New York Underground, Princeton University Press, 1992.
Pip Chodorov, Christina Lebrat, Le Livre de Walden, Editions Paris Expérimental, Paris, 1997.
Jonas Mekas: Frozen Film Frames, Photo-Planete, Tokyo, 1997 [in Japanese].
Pip Chodorov, Patrice Rollet, Lost Lost Lost, Editions Paris Expérimental, 2000. [in French and English].

Extended Essays and Interviews

Alan Levy, “Voice of the Underground Cinema,” The New York Times Magazine, September 19, 1965.
Calvin Tomkins, “All Pockets Open,” New Yorker profile, January 6, 1973.
Scott MacDonald, “Interview With Jonas Mekas,” October N. 29, Summer 1984.
Jerome Sans, “An Interview with Jonas Mekas,” Just Like a Shadow, Steidl, 2000.

  1. Pingback: Jonas Mekas - Lithuanian Artist that Worked with John Lennon

Leave a Reply