Letters to Jonas Mekas. Hot afternoon with Autarkia and Syndicate
Screening and lecture performance with Laura Kaminskaitė, Anastasia Sosunova, Seecum Cheung, Keren Cytter, Gerda Paliušytė, Lina Lapelytė and an unpublished video-message by Jonas Mekas
Curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi and JL Murtaugh
On the afternoon of February 11, Letters to Jonas Mekas, a tribute to the great Lithuanian filmmaker and pioneer of avant-garde cinema, to whom Images Are Real, on show at Mattatoio until 26 February 2023, comes to life in the MACRO spaces.
For the occasion, the curatorial duo Francesco Urbano Ragazzi invites the independent platforms Autarkia and Syndicate, both based in the same headquarters in Vilnius and expressing the spirit of Fluxus in contemporary times, to celebrate this moment.
Led by JL Murtaugh, the two platforms gather a group of friends to celebrate the filmmaker’s powerful cultural legacy. Artists from the new Lithuanian scene such as Laura Kaminskaitė, Anastasia Sosunova, Lina Lapelytė, Gerda Paliušytė, together with Keren Cytter and Seecum Cheung, pay tribute to their intellectual connection to Mekas and elaborate on a genre to which the artist has long been committed: epistolary and video-letter. In the spaces between the museum foyer and the auditorium, video works alternate with live interventions. Messages dedicated to an artist who has influenced at least three generations of artists are delivered to those present as if they were still unknown friends.
It is an unpublished message by Jonas Mekas from the archive of Francesco Urbano Ragazzi that opens this meeting: a hymn to the friendship between artists in the space that lies between independent cinema and the cameras we all carry in our pockets.
4 pm – 6 pm, auditorium, screening in loop
Lina Lapelytė, I Have Lost My Eyes, I have lost my eyes (words by Jonas Mekas), recorded by Lina Lapelytė and Rhodri Davies at Xavier Veilhan’s Studio Venezia, audio, 2’20”, 2018.
Jonas Mekas, Silence Please, video, sound, 3’50”, 2000.
Gerda Paliušytė, Early Winter, video, sound, 3′, 2020.
Jonas Mekas, George Maciunas, excerpt from Online Diaries (Venice), 1’34”, 2015.
Keren Cytter, Des Trous, video, sound, 14′, 2018.
Jonas Mekas, excerpt from Walden, video from 16mm film, sound, 2’55”, 1968.
Anastasia Sosunova, Messed Up Terrains, video, sound, 8′, 2020.
Jonas Mekas, In the Woods, video, sound, 4’39”, 2017.
Seecum Cheung, Eviction in Shenzhen: Part 1, video, sound, 18′, 2019.
Jonas Mekas, Orchard Street, video from 16mm film, mute, 2’44”, 2010.
4 pm – 6 pm, foyer
Laura Kaminskaitė, live intervention
6 pm, foyer
Anastasia Sosunova, live intervention
6.30 pm – 7.30 pm, auditorium
Conversation on Letters to Jonas Mekas with JL Murtaugh, Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, Laura Kaminskaite and Anastasia Sosunova followed by the projection of Jonas Mekas’s video message Birth of the Internet Nation.
Letters to Jonas Mekas is part of the public program of Images Are Real, the exhibition curated by Francesco Urbano Ragazzi, on view at Mattatoio in until 26 February. It is promoted by Roma Culture and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo in partnership with the Lithuanian Culture Institute and the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in Rome
AUTARKIA is an artist day care center, a club of interests, an office space for putative experiences and imaginary solutions, a bistro of experimental gastronomy, a gallery and project development hotel in Vilnius. Autarkia is an artist-run, service-oriented institution focused on creating artist support and resources—financial, promotional, and conceptual—in Lithuania and abroad. It was founded by Robertas Narkus, who represented Lithuania at the Venice Biennale last year, and currently under the artistic direction of JL Murtaugh. The advisory board is composed of Yana Foqué, Kipras Garla, Dita Birkenšteina, Milda Zabarauskaite, and Nerijus Rimkus.
SYNDACATE is an international platform for exhibitions, events, and publications. Currently based in Vilnius, it’s developing The Bureau, an open-access consulting service for art workers. Syndicate has a nomadic nature, with former headquarters in London, Cologne, and Los Angeles, in addition to numerous offsite projects. It was founded in 2014 by JL Murtaugh, an artist, curator, writer, and consultant. Originally from Chicago, he was the director of Tenderpixel in London from 2012 to 2014 and is currently the artistic director of Autarkia.
FRANCESCO URBANO RAGAZZI is a curatorial duo born in Paris in 2008. They have realised many exhibition projects, talks and publications about Jonas Mekas. Among the exhibitions, The Internet Saga, on the occasion of the Venice Biennale, Again, It All Comes Back to Me in Brief Glimpses, the artist’s first retrospective in Asia (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul) and Like a Flower in a Field, commissioned by the Reykjavik International Film Festival. In 2022, the duo directed LIAF, the longest-running contemporary art biennial in Scandinavia.
LAURA KAMINSKAITĖ (1984, LT) disrupts conventional art motifs through humorous events, real and imagined, employing installations, text, and graphic gestures. Her interventions continually adapt and resist their contexts—her virtual book Ghost Bag (The Baltic Notebooks of Anthony Blunt, Vilnius, 2018) is continually punctuated with illustrations and texts by invited contributors as well as directly appropriated fragments of writing and material from other authors. Kaminskaitė’s solo exhibitions include CAC, Vilnius; Vermilion Sands, Copenhagen DK; LOW, Riga LV; P////AKT, Amsterdam NL; Editorial, Vilnius LT; and Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp BE. She’s participated in group exhibitions including Kaunas Biennial 2019, LT; Hordaland Kunstsenter, Bergen NO; Kunstverein Munich, DE; Kim? Contemporary Art Center, Riga LV; Baltic Triennial 2016, Riga LV; Kunsthalle Athena, Athens GR; Moderna Museet, Malmö SE; and The National Centre for Contemporary Art, Moscow RU. Her works are in the collections of the Nomas Foundation, Rome IT; Quadrum, Vilnius LT; and BTA Vienna Insurance Group, Vilnius LT and Riga LV. Kaminskaitė studied graphics and sculpture, currently lectures at the Vilnius Academy of Art, and lives in Vilnius.
ANASTASIA SOSUNOVA (1993, LT) deconstructs emotional relations and projected obligations in a variety of media including sculpture, installation, writing, and film. Her recent projects explicitly question the hierarchy and contradictions of citizenship, spirituality, and sexuality, encouraging the construction of new territories, unbound by normative cliches, as places to understand the meaning and individual manifestation of belonging, freedom, and love. Notable solo and two-person exhibitions have been presented at Cell Projects, London UK; SixtyEight Art Institute, Copenhagen DK; Britta Rettberg, Munich DE; New Museum, New York US; Swallow, Vilnius LT; Kogo, Tartu EE; and Editorial, Vilnius LT. She has exhibited work at the National Gallery of Art, Vilnius LT; Kunsthalle Osnabrück, DE; Prospectif Cinéma at Centre Pompidou, Paris FR; FUTURA Contemporary Art Centre, Prague CZ; and the 2021 Baltic Triennial 14, Vilnius LT. Sosunova won the JCDecaux Emerging Artist Award in 2018. She graduated from the Vilnius Academy of Arts with a BA in Graphic Arts and an MA in Sculpture, and lives in Vilnius.
SEECUM CHEUNG (1984, Coventry, UK) is an artist and filmmaker whose deep research begins with her personal encounters with embodied radicalism and human rights suppression. Each project develops into a expanded field of documentary filmmaking, crossing over with leading experts in journalism, sociology, and political science; then steps beyond that field to weave complex characterizations and narratives, illustrating the ways intentional hegemonic violence and dis-empathy against the identity and agency of the underrepresented have tangible, heartbreaking, and reprehensible effects. Solo presentations include Grand Union, Birmingham UK; Syndicate, Brussels BE; and Vital Capacities, London UK. She’s participated in exhibitions and screenings at Autarkia, Vilnius LT; Syndicate, London UK; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam NL; Kunstinstituut Melly, Rotterdam NL; Horse and Pony Fine Arts, Berlin DE, and A Tale of a Tub, Rotterdam NL amongst many others. Cheung is currently a lecturer in social practice at Willem de Kooning Academie, Rotterdam NL; a professional freelance director of photography in film and television; and a member of the ESEA artist collective Sunday (fka Rising Buns). She studied at Piet Zwart Institute in Rotterdam, and lives in Rotterdam, London, and Hong Kong.
KEREN CYTTER (1977, Israel) is an artist, filmmaker, and author who relentlessly experiments with the relationship between truth and storytelling. Her films and novels, as simple as social media videos or journal entries through to elaborate stage and screen productions and multi-edition global publications consistently defy expectation and also connect as a responsive experience to pressure demanded by contemporary life, professionalism, love, and creativity. Presaging the hyper-meta feedback loops of the social media landscape, Cytter’s cyclical logics are obtuse, layered, and baroque while also enduringly genuine, personal, and devoid of pretense. Selected solo exhibitions include Ludwig Forum, Aachen DE; Syndicate, Mexico City MX; Museion, Bolzano IT; SCHLOSS, Oslo NO; Künstlerhaus Halle für Kunst & Medien, Graz AT; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago US; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen DK; Tate Modern, London UK; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam NL. Cytter has previously collaborated with Syndicate for Marathon Screenings, Los Angeles US; Beverly’s, New York US; and Hotelito San Rafael, Mexico City MX amongst others. She is a professor at Kunstakademie Münster and lives in New York.
GERDA PALIUŠYTĖ (1987, LT) is an artist and curator. Her work links a range of documentary practices, focused chiefly on characters and phenomena from history and popular culture, and further on the relationship of prominent subjects with social reality—how cultivated perceptions of people and events influence both the subject and viewer. An interdisciplinary artist primarily using film and photography, Paliušytė explores the inner workings of collective practices and the various ways of tacit agreements take form. Recent solo and dual exhibitions include We Live in Places (with Gabija Nedzinskaitė) at the former Institute of Physics in Vilnius, LT; Lavender Opener Chair Gallery, Tokyo JP; and Prospect Gallery, Vilnius LT. Paliušytė received the 2020 Rupert – Lithuanian Culture Institute – Somerset House Studios Residency Award.
LINA LAPELYTĖ (1984, LT) is an artist, composer, and musician. She reinterprets the elements of music, through a prism of popular culture, gender conventions, and imagined pasts to create emotional, textured performances, films, choreographies, and stage productions. Her longtime artistic collaboration with Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė and Vaiva Grainytė resulted in the creation of two contemporary operas, Have a Good Day! (2013) and Sun and Sea (2017) which represented Lithuania at the 2019 Venice Biennale and received the Golden Lion for national participation. Both operas remain on extended tours of worldwide venues, including in Italy with Have a Good Day! at Mambo in Bologna, and Sun and Sea at Teatro Argentina in Rome and currently touring Australia and South America. Lapelytė’s recent major individual projects include her solo show ‘The Mutes’ at Lafayette Anticipations, Paris FR; the 2021 Kaunas Biennial; Haus der Kunst, Munich DE; Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Brussels BE; Tai Kwun, Hong Kong HK; Glasgow International 2021; Riga Biennial 2020; Fondation Cartier, Paris FR; Kunsthalle Praha, CZ; CCA Ujazdowski, Warsaw PL; 2018 Baltic Triennial; David Roberts Art Foundation, London UK; Moderna Museet, Malmö SE; Hayward Gallery, London UK; and Serpentine Galleries, London UK. Past projects with Syndicate include those for Snehta, Athens GR, and Material Art Fair, Mexico City MX. She lives in London and Vilnius.