Alternate Perspective: Maya Deren at MoMA

A woman has strength to wait, because she has to wait. She has to wait nine months for the concept of a child. Time is built into her body in the sense of becomingness. I think that in my films — putting as much stress as they do on the current metamorphosis — that is, it is what is happening that is important in my films, not what is at any moment. This is a woman’s true sense.

Maya Deren’s exhibit in New York City’s Museum of Modern Art was an intriguing exhibit for the conessieur of modern art and the cinephile (Not to say that one excludes the other, of course). The exhibition featured four of her best short films (Meditation on Violence, At Land, Ritual in Transfigured Time, and her most famous, Meshes of the Afternoon).

Deren, a Polish expatriate whose parents left their homeland during the Pogroms when she was a young child, graduated from Syracuse University where she studied literature, film, and was an ardent socialist. Following her college education, she was able to immediately able to establish herself as an avant-garde filmmaker and film theorist. In 1943, she directed her first film, which was Meshes in the Afternoon, and was immediately regarded as a seminal work in avant-garde cinema. The film was initially recorded silent with no dialogue, but musical compositions were added by her lover and future husband Teiji Ito.

Her next two films ever increased her international acclaim — Ritual in Transfigured Time, which I had the pleasure of seeing in the exhibit, and A  Study in Choreography for the Camera earned her a Guggenheim grant, and vaunted her to international significance and acclaim, which was confirmed by her awards at Cannes in 1947.

In 1948, she produced what is probably her most provocative, minimalistic, and beautiful short, A Meditation on Violence, Chao Li Chi’s restrained yet graceful movements blur the line between violence and beauty, and really reflect her own theories on the nature of motion in cinema. Chi is always in motion in the film.

In conclusion, the late Mrs. Deren’s exhibit at the MoMA is truly a sight to see, in addition to all the wonderful pieces in the museum which I had the pleasure of seeing today.


About Ryan Silva
An American born cinephile writing, making films, and studying in New York City. Festival addict and student Jurist at the 2010 Rhode Island International Film Festival. Hits: moe anime and space operas. Misses: Smelly roommates and Jersey Shore

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