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Imagine for one moment that every social media post—every selfie—was your diaristic contribution to a sweeping post-pencil movement that, one day, would be exhibited by collectives and independent art houses of the future.  Prior to the era of DIY-documentation, Jonas Mekas recorded brief moments in his life beginning as early as the 1940s. His distinct style and Bolex camera are some of the better-known signifiers of the prolific filmmaker, poet and artist, who, only five years earlier, had been taken by the Nazis from his home in Lithuania to a forced labor camp in Germany.

After moving to New York in 1949, Mekas became a prominent figure in the American avant-garde film movement.  He and his brother Adolfas launched Film Culture Magazine in 1954; began writing the “Movie Journal” column in the Village Voice in 1958; and in the 60s, founded the Film-Makers’ Cooperative and the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, which eventually evolved into the Anthology Film Archives.  Throughout, Mekas continued to write poetry and make films, and in 1969, introduced his first diary film “Walden.”

An intensely personal record of his daily life in New York City, “Walden” is a six-part body of work edited from a collection of images captured on the Bolex. Mekas elaborates in an artist statement, “When one writes diaries, it’s a retrospective process: you sit down, you look back at your day, and you write it all down. To keep a film (camera) diary is to react (with your camera) immediately, now, this instant: either you get it now, or you don’t get it at all.” 

Who better to welcome Mekas to the tropics than Obsolete Media Miami, a local artist-run experimental studio that collects and conserves picture and moving image archives. This month, OMM founders Kevin Arrow and Barron Sherer, with the support of Miami Design District, are hosting a fundraising reception with the artist with a screening of “Walden” Parts I and II. 

“There is a profound contemporary relevance and legacy in Jonas Mekas’ artistic practice and the way in which his 1960s 16mm diary films anticipated our social media streams,” said Sherer. “We are proud to partner with the Miami Design District and Ground Control Miami to bring this celebrated archivist, filmmaker, writer and champion of underground aesthetics to Miami.”

Jonas Mekas In Person will take place on Saturday, March 26 at the Palm Court Event Space (140 NE 39th Street); the reception begins at 7 p.m., followed by a two-hour screening. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and can be purchased here. All proceeds benefit O.M.M. 

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