Video: Fluxus Can’t be Hung on a Wall. Jonas Mekas in Brussels
Text and video by Žanete Skarule 14/01/2014
After a fifteen-year hiatus, the American avant garde film pioneer, Jonas Mekas (1922), has returned to Belgium to open the exhibition Jonas Mekas / Fluxus Wall, at Brussels' Bozar Centre for Fine Arts. Ongoing through January 26, the exhibition features a retrospective of the creative works of Lithuanian-born, New York-based avant garde artist Jonas Mekas, with film, photography, poetry, installation and video diaries that were created in a time period beginning with the 1950s and spanning to the current day. The second part of the show is a display of objects created during the Fluxus era (an anti-art movement formed in 1960s New York that counted among its followers artists from various disciplines, including Joseph Beuys, Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik); this section has been given the title Fluxus Wall, even though the movement's one-time member, Jonas Mekas, himself admits that “Fluxus is impossible to define, and it can't be hung on a wall.”
Mekas arrived in Brussels at the end of October, thereby continuing his series of exhibition and film retrospections held at, among others, the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Helsinki's Kiasma, Le Centre Phi in Montreal, the Deborah Colton Gallery in Huston, and in several German cities.
Alongside the exhibition, Brussels' historic Cinematek movie theater (which has a long-term relationship with the Anthology Film Archives center in New York, of which Mekas was a co-founder) hosted the opening of Mekas' film program, and also held a public discussion on Fluxus activities and its creator and source of inspiration, George Maciunas, who was a friend and colleague of Mekas.
The organizers of the exhibition revealed that getting Jonas Mekas to Brussels was not an easy assignment. First of all, because Mekas had listed Brussels as one of the world's five most boring cities; and secondly, because Mekas' last visit to Belgium had ended with a scandal: during the 1963 experimental film festival EXPRMNTL3, Mekas took over the projection room and turned the projector beam right onto the Belgian Minister of Justice, thereby showing his discontent with the festival's organizers, who had refused to screen the film Flaming Creatures, by American underground director Jack Smith (the film can currently be seen on YouTube).
After his short visit, Mekas revealed that he had changed his mind, and that now Manhattan has taken Brussels' place on his list of the five most boring cities.
Shortly before the opening of Jonas Mekas / Fluxus Wall, Mekas symbolically wrote on the wall of the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts.
Along with the opening of the exhibition, a public discussion was held at Bozar, featuring both avant garde director Jonas Mekas and Vytautas Landsbergis – the first head of post-soviet Lithuania and a childhood friend of George Maciunas. Both speakers shared their memories of things like post-war Germany, arriving in the artistic elite of New York, the essence of Fluxus, and their dreams of the future whilst being far from their homeland.
Both discussed Lithuania's struggle for freedom – in which Landsbergis was an active participant helping to achieve positive results, the complex political situation of the time notwithstanding. At one time, Landsbergis had even compared Lithuania's regaining of independence to a performance of Fluxus.
The opening of the retrospective of the films of Jonas Mekas, at the Cinematek movie theater.