Jonas Mekas is the filmmaker of memory. Doesn’t that make it odd that the murder of 2,400 Jewish people in the region of his birth in 1941 has not been awarded a place in his autobiographical work? It is a question Peter Delpeut asked himself in his recently published book Het vergeten kwaad. De herinneringen van Jonas Mekas.
For years, Peter Delpeut has been keeping Jonas Mekas’ Movie Journal within reach on his desk, being a great admirer of Mekas since his student days. But in June 2018 he was rattled by an article in The New York Review of Books, in which historian Michael Casper claimed Mekas either deliberately forgot or misrepresented certain events that took place in Lithuania in WW II. The mass murder of 2,400 Jews on a single day in his region of birth features hardly, if at all, in the autobiographical work of Jonas Mekas (1922-2019). Casper, however, did not find any clues that Mekas was to have taken part in the slaughter of innocent people.
What is remarkable about Casper’s article is that he does not so much call Mekas to account because of his deeds, but because of his memory. Mekas ‘forgot’ things he should not have forgotten. The reproach of having ‘forgotten’ is very significant in the context of Mekas’ cinematic oeuvre, a filmmaker who does not seem to want to forget anything. Long before we started using our smartphones to record our experiences, Mekas almost obsessively chronicled his own life and that of his family and friends with his Bolex camera.
Peter Delpeut tries to shed light on the paradoxes of Mekas’ cinematic oeuvre on the basis of film clips. He also gives a presentation on three chapters from his essay that have been digitally reworked. Inspired by Mekas’ experiments, he approached Aryan Kaganof and the designers of the digital magazine herri (herri.org.za) to create an experience in which reading and screening are united. Is this enhanced reading able to approximate the experience of film?
The evening has been organized with the support of the Nederlands Letterenfonds (Dutch Foundation for Literature) and Atlas Contact publishers. Het vergeten kwaad. De herinneringen van Jonas Mekas by Peter Delpeut is for sale in Eye’s shop.
Eye on Art
Eye on Art is a programme on the intersection between film and other arts. Eye on Art keeps up with current events, with presentations on contemporary artists and programmes that coincide with important exhibitions, manifestations and Eye activities.