On the occasion of Jonas Mekas' centenary, Documenta Madrid is joining the worldwide initiative to commemorate this undeniable master of non-fiction cinema, with a very special programme in collaboration with Filmoteca Española. Jonas Mekas. Destellos de vida (Jonas Mekas. Glimpses of life) traces a dialogue with the present, offering a contemporary look at the influence that this essential poet of the everyday has had on the audiovisual community.
To this end, we have invited creators and collectives, with special attention to women filmmakers, to dialogue and debate with Mekas' work from different starting points, covering the conceptual range of his filmography: filmed diaries, the aesthetics of the unrepeatable and the ephemeral, collective creation in that golden age of counterculture, fragmentation, analysis and distancing from reality...
The aim of these sessions is not only to pay tribute to the artistic contributions of the Lithuanian-born filmmaker, a reference point for experimentation in American cinema, but also to map out the various turns that his work has taken through the different artistic disciplines, thus extending the borders and expanding the art of avant-garde filmmaking.
In addition to his facet as a creator, Mekas was one of the first to see (among many other aspects in which he was a true visionary) the value of spaces for the conservation and dissemination of film heritage, with the creation of the Anthology Film Archives. That is why it seems very important to us that the great archive of Spanish audiovisual memory, Filmoteca Española, should be the venue for this retrospective.
It will also be the venue for the presentation of the book by Professor Efrén Cuevas, Filming History from Below: Microhistorical Documentaries, in which he approaches the history of documentary film from a micro-historical perspective, and where the film Lost, Lost, Lost (Jonas Mekas, 1976) occupies a central position from the most unorthodox viewpoint.
We invited Meritxell Colell to be part of this celebration, and she proposed her latest piece, La ciutat a la vora, a map of sounds and images that builds a symphony of her city, its people, its spaces and origins, in a journey that follows in the steps of Mekas’s style.
Much has been said about the figure of Mekas as the first vlogger in history, and we wanted to go a step beyond the individual view of a vlog, by evaluating it a polyhedral artefact of the audiovisual language of social networks, courtesy of the Nuberu Bagu creator’s collective.
And finally, we wanted to remember and pay homage to the festive, performative and provocative spirit of the unexpected, the unrepeatable, so closely linked to “happenings”. Orquestina de Pigmeos, a collective formed by the musician, Nilo Gallego, and the audiovisual creator, Chus Domínguez, proposes a musical intervention that converses directly with Mekas himself on the screen to celebrate with him all the “flashes of life” that he has left us.
If we can learn something from Mekas's films, it is that his cinematographic experience, as a spectator, creator and thinker, is inseparable from the experience of that pedestrian who, as they walk along, is intoxicated by unforeseen impulses. That’s why it’s difficult to pay tribute to Mekas without going crazy, without wanting to create something living, something that transcends the room and floods the streets.
Filmoteca Española and Documenta Madrid