Surrealist Networks and the Films of Maya Deren

Fijalkowski, Krzysztof (2021) Surrealist Networks and the Films of Maya Deren. In: Kristoffer Noheden and Abigail Susik, eds.,Surrealism and Film After 1945: Absolutely Modern Mysteries. Manchester University Press. ISBN 9781526149985


The experimental film-maker Maya Deren rejected links between her work and surrealism; critics tend to either endorse this view, or be content with some general stylistic affiliations. Nevertheless, both the common context of New York circles in the mid-1940s, and emerging themes such as magic, ritual, gender and identity that are shared by Deren and surrealism suggest deeper affinities. Three films made by Deren between 1943 and 1946 (At Land, Ritual in Transfigured Time and especially the unfinished Witch's Cradle) can be used to plot a conversation between her work and surrealism, not in order to claim Deren for the movement, but to register resonances and consider some ways in which surrealism’s priorities shifted during and after the Second World War. Witch's Cradle, which features Marcel Duchamp and makes reference to surrealist exhibition contexts such as his Mile of String installation from 1942, may be read as an unravelling and rewinding of a skein of rituals and networks that would also inform developing surrealist theory and practice of the 1940s.

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