A Lithuanian in New York
Next week, form 264 will be published focusing on Lithuania. To get you in the mood, we present “Scrapbook of the Sixties” by the Lithuanian author and film-maker, Jonas Mekas, recently published by Spector Books.
Scrapbook of the Sixties
Spector Books, Leipzig
456 pages, € 28
It is a book whose features are initially puzzling: a two-column note- or sketchbook of 456 thin paper pages, the text blocks whose design are perhaps supposed to be reminiscent of single film frames, appear to be surrounded in mourning black, the chapter headings written in the author’s clumsy handwriting, and finally, the title typography makes one think of Lawrence Weiner or Christopher Wool; one thinks of an easy-read as being different to this. Yet – that which is plausible is often quickly forgotten and this would be a loss in the case of the content. Because the records by Jonas Mekas, a 93-year-old, naturalised US American author hailing from Lithuania, are an overview of an epoch of non-conformist New York culture primarily of the 1950s to the 1970s focusing on film and performance. Added to this are reports about new poetry trends of his time by the German language gameplayer, Schuldt, and Peter Beard who draws, paints and photographs, and also unfiltered material of designers now absolved from criticism such as Charles Eames and Saul Bass, whose films shown at the New York world exhibition in 1964, Mekas described sarcastically: “An audiovisual lesson about information is being collected […]; it teaches absolutely nothing. Uses at least six motion-picture projectors, four or five slide projectors, […]. A very busy performance confused, overcrowded, perfectly unfunctional, and, I would dare to say, silly.” Of Eames’s “Information Machine” for IBM, and Saul Bass’s “From Here to There” for United Airlines, he said, “People saying goodbye; babies smiling; kisses, more kisses; […] more kisses; more babies smiling.” And this is how the work of today’s holy pillars of American Modernism is perceived in contemporary times. Spector Books has published the collection which is sadly only available in the original language. This is a publisher whose programme with facsimiles, important catalogues and discoveries about graphic art, architecture, design and art demonstrates a few similarities with Lars Müller Publishers – including the practice of publishing increasingly only in English. As a result, Spector is a publisher that is becoming more interesting to the world of design.