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Filmmaker Maya Deren established her name by making a series of experimental films that embrace opposites. Her remarkable body of work expresses and sustains contradictory notions—stillness/motion, real/imaginary, seen/unseen, negative/positive, finished/unfinished—to weaken the boundaries that would seem to confine art, form, and film in particular. In one film, the moving image becomes a freeze-frame as a man on a pedestal suddenly stops, freezing into a statue image briefly before springing into action again. Elsewhere, she makes visible the invisible states of Haitian gods in ritual dancing or depicts the solidity of human forms through shadows, reflections, or abstractions. This talk explores the contradictions that underline Deren’s idea of film as an art and considers their impact on her role in helping to establish the contours of American experimental film form.
Sarah Keller is an assistant professor of art and cinema studies. She co-edited Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations (Amsterdam University Press, 2012), and her most recent book, Maya Deren: Incomplete Control, examines the role of unfinished work through Maya Deren oeuvre (Columbia University Press, 2014). Her next project addresses discourses related to cinephilia and cinephobia across film history.