Jonas Mekas – escape

I Had Nowhere to Go

Jonas Mekas

Jonas Mekas 在他的日記《I Had Nowhere to Go》中說了一個童話故事。故事關於一名男子,他不知道面前的路通往何方?而在路的盡頭會見到甚麼?


美國前衛電影教父 Jonas Mekas 的創作充滿過去的片段,在個人的回憶及歷史檔案中,他拼合出既似虛構亦是夢魘的影像創作。1922 年生於立陶宛北面的小村,Mekas 經歷國家被蘇聯入侵,繼而是納粹德軍迫近,他形容小村在戰火前後的狀況「本來是甚麼也沒有發生的地方,突然變成甚麼也在發生。」後來為了逃避戰火及獨裁的迫害,他跟弟弟避走維也納,希望在那裡修讀哲學。可惜中途已被逮著,被押至德國漢堡的勞改營,兄弟二人在營中渡過了八個月。

勞改營的生活該是充滿苦難,但在 Mekas 的日記 《I Had Nowhere to Go》中,這八個月的日子沒有那種人間地獄的描述,卻由回憶與他人故事交織而成。有一天他這樣輕描淡寫,「在路上我們看見很多獨自在途上的孩子,這個或許是十歲、十一歲吧,這是當孩子最好的時光……『有一種東西我們現在有很多,』德國人說『就是時間。時間會讓一切展露。』」

另一天他寫著,「回憶    綠色的蜥蜴在溫暖的苔蘚上」然後 Mekas 在想:假如蘇聯政府明白別人的財物、土地及生命皆不可取……那蜥蜴與苔蘚是回憶中的家鄉?還是在身處的勞改營中?是當下與回憶混雜與交纏。Mekas 在記錄歷史,也沒有記錄歷史。

如果歷史是由無數的大事組合而成,那些眾人皆知的大事,大概都是真實地發生過。那回憶呢?還有疑幻似真的夢境?應該是被抑壓既不想承認、也不願面對的歷史吧。Mekas 說他要閉上眼晴迎向未來,不管也不想知道前路是怎樣,又或者前路盡頭將通往無處。

Jonas Mekas 最後逃到美國。他的日記《I Had Nowhere to Go》今年返回記憶中的德國,在本屆的卡塞爾文獻展中展出。

(Top) Jonas Mekas, Sometimes We Escaped into the Fields, Kassel/Mattenberg D.P. Camp (1948), gelatin silver print, 55.9 × 43.2 cm

(Left) Jonas Mekas, Kassel/Mattenberg D.P. Camp School (1948), gelatin silver print, 43.2 × 55.9 cm
(Right) Jonas Mekas, German Children, Kassel/Mattenberg D.P. Camp (1948), gelatin silver print, 43.2 × 55.9 cm

In his diary, titled I Had Nowhere to Go, Jonas Mekas told a fairy tale, about a boy who does not know where the road before him leads, and what he will see at the end.

Finally, he reaches the end of the road: “He found a pile, a small pile of rabbit shit at the end of the road. And back he went. And when people used to ask him, ‘Eh, where does the road lead to?’ he used to answer, ‘Nowhere, the road leads nowhere, and there is nothing at the end of the road but a pile of rabbit shit.’ So he told them. But nobody believed him. (To be continued)”

The work of Jonas Mekas, who is known as the godfather of American avant-garde cinema, abounds with episodes from the past. In his personal profile of recollections and history, he has put together video creations that are based seemingly on imagination but at the same time on his nightmares. Born in a small village in Northern Lithuania in 1922, Mekas experienced Soviet Union’s invasion of his country, and afterwards, Nazi army advancing ever closer. It is how he compared the situation of his little hometown before and after war: “It used to be a place where nothing happened, but all of a sudden everything was happening.” Later on, to escape from the warfare and the oppression of dictatorship, along with his younger brother, he fled to Venice, where he hoped to study philosophy. However, they were arrested on their way, and sent to a labor camp in Hamburg, Germany, in which the two brothers had spent eight months.

The life in the labor camp must be full of sufferings, but in I Had Nowhere to Go, there was no description of such living hell; rather, his diary is composed of memories intertwined with stories of others. One day, he wrote, with a rather light tone, “We see many children on the road. Alone. Here is one, maybe ten years old, maybe eleven. A great time to be a child… ‘There is one thing of which we have a lot,’ say the Germans, ‘and that is time.’  ‘Time will straighten out everything,’ they say.”

Another day, he wrote, “Memory  green lizards on warm moss”. And then he thought, if the Government of the Soviet Union had understood that they must not take away the property, land and life of others… Did the green lizard and moss appear in the hometown within his memory, or inside the labor camp where he was held at the time? It is the present intermingling with memories. Mekas was recording and not recording history at the same time.

If history can be broken down into countless major events, those major events that are known to all probably did happen. But how about memories, as well as dreams which seem both real and unreal? They probably represent the part of history that has been suppressed, and that no one is willing to acknowledge and face up to. Mekas said he had to shut his eyes to welcome the future, without caring or wanting to know what lies before him, or if the path before him will lead to nowhere.

Jonas Mekas fled to the United States in the end. His diary I Had Nowhere to Go returned to the Germany in his memory, and was exhibited at this year’s Kassel Documenta.

Jonas Mekas – Mekas and friends

Adolfas Mekas, Jonas Mekas with Friends (Algirdas Landsbergis, Leonas Letas), Kassel/Mattenberg D.P. Camp (1948), gelatin silver print, 55.9 × 43.2 cm