Art, film September 29, 2011 By Derek Peck

Jonas amid his personal archives. Photography by Derek Peck

Jonas amid his personal archives. Photography by Derek Peck

title61 Jonas Mekas

From my regular column in AnOther magazine.

Jonas Mekas is a man who clearly loves a good archive. Besides being a filmmaker, artist, writer and poet, Mekas is probably the most dedicated and genre-conscious pack rat in New York City. Over the last forty years he’s become widely known for being a co-founder and chief guardian of the Anthology Film Archive, the largest collection of underground and experimental film in the world. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise when I arrived at his Brooklyn loft the other week and discovered the entire space filled with loosely stacked boxes, folders, photographs, glassines and slides of cut film reels, writings, poems, magazines, posters, and so on. They covered every available surface. Books and binders lined the walls. Nothing was overly fastidious or ordered – in fact, the stacks were actually rather loosely assembled – but there was nothing messy either. And Jonas knew exactly where everything was. At first, I was confused. I thought perhaps he was housing a portion of the Anthology Film Archives in his own living room. But he assured me he wasn’t. This was his own work, he said, a lifetime of thought and creativity and its artifacts. The next logical thought that came to mind was, How did he live here? There seemed to be no place to relax, recline, or spread out a big feast for family and friends. There was nowhere to not work. But after only a few minutes visiting I realised this is how he lives. Mekas is so consumed with the art of documenting life and collecting its leftovers that it has become entirely second nature to him, as automatic as breathing air.

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