Maya Deren "Meshes Of The Afternoon"
I had heard the name "Maya Deren" in passing for some time - maybe in art school or in an article about film, however it wasn't until everyone started comparing me to her that I actually looked up her work. My short film "Very Beautiful Woman", commissioned for an online "group show" via Pangur Ban Party, eventually screened offline in NYC and the UK. It received a lot of comparisons (Jimmy Chen made several in this post), though across the web they were primarily to Lynch and Maya Deren. I know Lynch's early work quite well... but I felt pretty dumb, as a filmmaker, for having never seen Deren's.
When I finally watched "Meshes of the Afternoon" I felt as if I had unknowingly been some kind of spawn of Deren's. I felt eerily shocked seeing some scenes in this film that were almost exact replica's of shots in my film. I saw so many resemblances in how we portrayed meaning, in the non-traditional way in which we had cut, shot and produced our personal work, how we portrayed ourselves as women. The similarities didn't stop there, we both have a background in dance, choreography and performance and she frequently appeared in her films. Saying that I agree with the comparisons people were posting on FB makes me feel sort of egotistical since Deren is considered to be one of the most important figures in avant-garde / experimental film ever. Personally I sort of hate feeling that my work is so similar to someone else's work. In fact, I really loath people who try to copy era's, shots etc.. from work that was groundbreaking.. its like.. go think up some of your own ideas! However, I feel I get a free pass from persecuting myself over the blatant similarities between my video and Deren's since I hadn't actually seen any of her work prior to my video, which drew so much comparison to hers.
As an artist Deren is frequently written up along side other artists and writers like Kenneth Anger (who I will post about later), Anias Nin (who she was known to frequently chill with) and Marcel Duchamp who she collaborated with on a film that was never completed. She died in 1961 from a combo of sleeping pills and amphetamines. Her life was pretty amazing and filled with a lot of influential people who would later be considered groundbreaking artists. She also was a published poet, writer and had an album out on Elektra Records! You can read more about her life here.
Artistic freedom means that the amateur filmmaker is never forced to sacrifice visual drama and beauty to a stream of words...to the relentless activity and explanations of a plot...nor is the amateur production expected to return profit on a huge investment by holding the attention of a massive and motley audience for 90 minutes...Instead of trying to invent a plot that moves, use the movement of wind, or water, children, people, elevators, balls, etc. as a poem might celebrate these. And use your freedom to experiment with visual ideas; your mistakes will not get you fired