Jonas Mekas is a prestigious Lithuanian filmmaker based in New York. He is 94 years old but, despite his age, he retains an enormous vitality. He is very well-known. Many of us admire him. He has seen a lot of things in his long life. He has met a lot of artists. Mekas has a video diary that he updates from time to time. This summer, he surprised us by publishing a video in which he talked about his recent trip to Europe as a guest of the Documenta Kassel. He said in the video that he had been in big cities, in big events and that he had seen very big things. And that he was tired of everything being so big, too big. But he also said that, fortunately, almost by chance, when passing through Madrid, he had the opportunity to see a rehearsal of Nowhere. It is created by the musician Nilo Gallego and the audiovisual artist-filmmaker Chus Domínguez, who both head Orquestina de Pigmeos, and was premiered at the end of September in the warehouses of the Matadero (the former abattoir). Appearing on stage are a group of non-professional Romanian actresses (Luminita Moissi, Mirela Ivan, Angelica Simona Enache, Mariana Enache), along with the Colombian musician, Julián Mayorga, and Claudia Ramos. There is also another handful of people in the rear (Óscar Villegas, Raquel Sánchez, Raúl Alaejos and Ana Cortés).
There are always a lot of people, because that’s how the Orquestina de Pigmeos works, with a lot of people. In recent years, this has become unusual in the unofficial live art scene (I do not know how to name it anymore). In recent years, this scene has been transforming the old concept of the company so much as to almost destroy it. It is more like a constellation of isolated individuals -probably because of financial reasons- but also because of certain individualistic trends that are possibly being reversed again, who knows? But we were with Mekas. Jonas Mekas, in his videoblog. He is visibly moved. He tells the world that this rehearsal by Orquestina de Pigmeos is the best he has seen, at least in the past year. And he adds: this is what art is all about. OK, perhaps Mekas felt flattered because in the show Orquestina makes good use of his book, I had nowhere to go in which he writes about his exile through war-torn Europe until his arrival in New York. Orquestina de Pigmeos projected the texts which overlap with what occurs on stage. This allows us to contemplate pure life, and also pure artifice (so we can to return again to a hygienic view of life, one that is indistinguishable from the fiction in which we are increasingly immersed), created by people who, like Mekas, also left their countries of origin to reach Madrid. But in the video, Jonas Mekas explains to the world what art is for him. The art that interests him. It’s a definition that gives me goose bumps: it’s simple, straight, small, personal, unpretentious, down-to-earth, connected to life. Something like that, says Mekas. And after many laps of the track, Jonas Mekas found it in a rehearsal of the Orquestina de Pigmeos on a hot summer afternoon in Madrid. I can’t think of better words than the ones Mekas uses to talk about any of the wonderful works that nurture the long history of the Orquestina de Pigmeos. They are the perfect representatives of all those people who have been doing amazing things in the strange territory of arts where, so far, no one has paid attention to them. I find it grossly hypocritical when I listen to many of the promoters of the political change talking about art and culture as the engine for change, while their actions and those of their allies, reveal the great betrayal they are perpetrating. We are missing out on a great opportunity. They can’t know what they are talking about, surely. But it would be so easy to do otherwise. All they have to do is pay close attention to the words of Jonas Mekas and the actions of his friends.
Text by Rubén Ramos Nogueira published in Ajo Blanco magazine.