Jonas Mekas/The Fluxus Wall

Jonas Mekas, George Maciunas, with work by Hollis Melton, Geoffrey Hendricks, Yoko Ono, Henry Flynt, Peter Moore, Jean Brown, Robert Watts

Bozar, Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels, Belgium

Co-production of Bozar and Lithuanian National Gallery

October 18, 2013 - January 26, 2014

Curated by Liutauras Psibilskis

Jonas Mekas/The Fluxus Wall is not the first exhibition I have worked on together with Jonas Mekas, and this is not the first time I have focused on Fluxus. At the invitation of the National Gallery of Lithuania, the Ministry of Culture of Lithuania and Bozar, I have engaged in this project together with a group of experienced curators, organizers and, of course, with Mekas and his crew. I present this exhibition together with Lolita Jablonskienė, who, as Director of the National Gallery of Lithuania in Vilnius, is the co-commissioner. She and I worked together under a similar arrangement on Mekas’s exhibition in the Lithuanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennial in 2005.

Jonas Mekas/The Fluxus Wall presents a selection of Mekas’s work that stretches from the 1950s to the present. The exhibition also shows some aspects of the Fluxus performance art scene as it is reflected in the Vilnius Fluxus Collection and Mekas’s personal archives in New York. It takes a close look at a few important but little-known episodes that have survived in documentation.

The Jonas Mekas presentation, which claims most of the galleries at our disposition in Bozar, has been put together in close collaboration with the artist, with the main intention of giving viewers the opportunity to follow his current interests. A few pieces dedicated to the past introduce us to his ongoing work. Mekas’s art is in permanent flux, full of unexpected developments and constantly offering us surprising new experiences and discoveries. It is both of the moment and firmly rooted in history. In a strong sense his work reflects on existence as such. Paradoxically, it almost negates the concept of time-movement, since it is so focused on the idea of being right here, right now. It doesn’t matter how long ago those moments were caught, every frame retains that amazing quality of “nowness.”

The exhibition touches on three important themes in Mekas’s work: Lithuania/Home/Paradise, Friendship/Family and Now/Existence in Presence. It goes back in history to the moment when he and his brother Adolfas arrived in the U.S. from a Europe devastated by war. It gives us intimate glimpses of the life of the Lithuanian community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and progresses through a selection of video works and objects on the themes of Lithuania and home which, in Mekas’s world, are so closely linked to the idea of Paradise. In another gallery we are given a survey of Mekas’ friendships, a display of faces of people with whom he has created his life and achievements in culture. The images on the Wall of Fluxus Friends include portraits of seminal art figures such as Ben, Yoko and John, George and many others. In the Hall of Now we can follow Mekas’s project 365 Days, in which he documents and creates a momentous video gem for each day of his year. We get an intimate peek into his life; we meet many outstanding people and visit a lot of different places. This video stream, which lasts for hours and hours, gives the impression of being a direct broadcast that allows us to experience Jonas Mekas’s life.

The Fluxus Wall is not a predictable selection of Fluxus artifacts that would reinforce the knowledge we already have of the movement, which is usually represented by the graphic design style and specific ironic notes created by George Mačiūnas. The work presented here instead allows us access to rarely seen moments of Mačiūnas’s life and art. It reflects his idea of a performance art integrated into reality. This part of the exhibition includes Hollis Melton’s photographs of Mačiūnas’s and Billie Hutching’s wedding performance in 1978. The bride and groom exchanged garments in the presence of a community of New York artists. The Fluxus Wall also offers us a glimpse of Mačiūnas’s intimate cross-dressing performances in the private setting of a Connecticut house, along with the dressing-up parties/performances that were part of both his life and his art. The selection also includes haunting photographs of Yoko Ono’s performances by Peter Moore, Ono’s written statement On Rape, and an instruction page for “Flyntian Modality” by Henry Flynt. Finally, the Fluxus Wall presents four clips of Fluxus performance documentations filmed by Mekas.

Mačiūnas was a strong and quite eccentric personality with many incarnations throughout his life, being a visionary organizer, something of a real estate developer who initiated the SoHo art community in New York and a performer who took on a variety of roles on social and art stages. He was the inventor and central figure of the Fluxus movement and as such he was able to create multiple connections between ideas, people and places. All these activities can be seen as one sprawling body of work, of endless creativity and energy, which transcended the pre-conditioned boundaries and limits in the world of art and of social structures. It is not incidental that Mačiūnas’s diverse oeuvre, which includes his habits and personality as an extension of his art, is highly inspirational for young artists today, as is his concept of the artist as visionary manager.

Mekas and Mačiūnas were close friends with a shared background in Lithuania, who, as a consequence of historical circumstances and of personal choices, landed in New York. Both of them explored the City, creating new structures and new layers of content and making important contributions to the culture of the place. George Mačiūnas passed away in 1978. Jonas Mekas is as active as ever. He works intensely and travels widely. The world is his oyster.

L.P.