Surrealist networks and the films of Maya Deren
in Surrealism and film after 1945
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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 early 1940s and emerging themes such as magic, ritual, gender, and identity that are shared by Deren and surrealism (particularly the writings of André Breton and Pierre Mabille in this period) 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 kind of mediumistic conversation between her work and surrealism, not in order to claim Deren for the movement, but to set off resonances and rethink moments in which surrealism’s priorities shifted during the period of 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 during and immediately after the war.

Surrealism and film after 1945

Absolutely modern mysteries

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