Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another Lithuanian Displacement

The man in the photo is Jonas Mekas, the face behind the name and obsolete address on an ancient and yellowed page of Our Lady of Vilnius parish mailing labels.

Though I have never seen him in our surrealistic blue barroom and despite being informed that his presence on the list is vestigial, I consider him part of our flock.

Today this image appears in the New York Times associated with the alert that an institution of artistic distinction is endangered. Larry Rohter's piece Distributor of Avant-Garde Films Threatened With Eviction describes how the 50 year old film archive received an eviction notice and must find a new home.

According to the article the archive, founded in 1962 by a group of experimental filmmakers including Mr. Mekas, the archive holds a collection of about 5,000 titles made by some 900 artists and rents these films to museums, universities, libraries and galleries in the United States and abroad.

Mr. Mekas' work "Lithuania" opened last Friday at Anthology Film Archive and received a thoughtful review from NY Times' Manohla Darghis who encapsulated his bio as follows:

"He and his brother, the filmmaker Adolfas Mekas, fled their Lithuanian home in 1944, spent time first in a German labor camp and then a displaced-persons camp, eventually sailing up the Hudson River in 1949 on a ship named the General Howze. Jonas Mekas went on to be a major avant-garde filmmaker, give us the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and Anthology Film Archives and become a national treasure. And years later he sat in his home and watched one world collapse, as another began."

I hope his camera is still rolling because we live in interesting times with much potential for collapse and resurrection.

Psst: There is an empty building at 32 Dominick Street rich in Lithuanian, American, New York and artistic heritage. The landlord, however, may prove difficult.

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