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Questionnaire: Jonas Mekas

Q. What should stay the same? A. Clean air, clean earth, clean water.

Jonas Mekas, aged four, standing in front of his father, 1926

Jonas Mekas, aged four, standing in front of his father, 1926

What images keep you company in the space where you work?

A picture of St Teresa of Ávila, a photograph of myself aged four, and a panoramic cityscape of Vilnius.

What was the first piece of art that really mattered to you?

A picture of two birds facing each other; it was painted by my father on the closet door when I was four years old.

If you could live with only one piece of art what would it be?

The picture of the two birds painted by my father on the closet door.

What is your favourite title of an art work?

Untitled.

What do you wish you knew?

How to read Sanskrit and ancient Greek.

What should change?

Music in restaurants should be strictly forbidden.

What could you imagine doing if you didn’t do what you do?

I would try not to do anything for as long as possible.

What music are you listening to?

Music of absolutely all genres, countries, periods and styles.

What are you reading?

This year, I re-read Herman Melville’s Moby Dick (1851) and Joseph Smith’s The Book of Mormon (1830); I’m currently reading Dante’s Purgatorio (Purgatory, 1308–21) and Cesare Pavese’s book of poems Lavorare Stanca (Hard Labour, 1936).

What do you like the look of?

A blue sky with not a single cloud.

What is art for?

To please the Muses.

Born in 1922 in Lithuania, filmmaker Jonas Mekas has lived and worked in New York, USA, since 1949. As well as feature-length films, including Sleepless Nights Stories (2011), in recent years his film installations have been shown in institutions such as moma ps1, New York (2007), and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (2008). In 2012, he had a solo exhi­bition at James Fuentes, New York. Mekas is currently the subject of a survey exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, London, UK, which runs until 27 January.

Issue 152

First published in Issue 152

Jan - Feb 2013
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