Jonas Mekas, the Lithuanian avant-garde film archivist, poet, and artist, passed away early this morning. He was 96. The Anthology Film Archives, an East Village film institution that Mekas co-founded, confirmed the news via Instagram Wednesday morning.

The cause of Mekas' death remains unknown, though The New York Times notes that Mekas had been checked into the hospital for a blood disorder last year.

Mekas was born in rural Lithuania in 1922. He came to New York as a refugee in the late 1940s, having survived imprisonment at a Nazi labor camp. He and his brother first lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; there, he started documenting his life with a handheld camera. That eventually evolved into him making scores of films that drew heavily from personal observation, rather than a highly-stylized approach.

He ingrained himself into the avant-garde film community, going on to become the Village Voice's first film critic in 1958. Around then, he began thinking up ways that unusual films could be screened on a regular basis, going on to co-found the Film-Makers’ Cinematheque, a showcase for films that didn't make it to the mainstream. Eventually that project would become the Anthology Film Archives, a longtime screener of hard-to-find films here in New York City.

Mekas remained active until the end of his life, making appearances at film festivals and protests, including Occupy Wall Street.

Just few weeks ago, John Leland recalled a conversation he'd had with Mekas at the Anthology Film Archives about death and the afterlife. Mekas said he didn't think much about life beyond death, a belief that stemmed from his upbringing right by two cemeteries. “All I can tell you,” he told the audience that night, “is that life does not end in this room.”

You can also read an interview Mekas did with The Creative Independent in 2017 here.