Sunday, July 8, 2007

Artists Separated at Face: Maya Deren & Kate Bush

Dancer and experimental filmmaker Maya Deren's short film Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)is probably the most widely screened example of avant-garde and experimental or feminist filmmaking. I first saw it when I took Introduction to Film Studies in 2000 and found it simultaneously mesmerizing and unsettling. I watched some more of her work when I took a female directors graduate seminar in 2005. After a few more viewings of Meshes of the Afternoon, I was still mesmerized but not nearly as unsettled.


A Study in Choreography For Camera (1945) is really fascinating as well (and not the least bit unnerving).

Maya Deren was also a philosopher and film theorist.
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Her films are often included in the curriculum for film classes and feminist theory classes, but I'm not sure about dance classes. A choreographer and filmmaker visited Emory in the spring of 2004 to give a talk about how video technology and choreography intersect. I attended the lecture to do research for my Operational Aesthetics paper on televised football. During the Q & A section, I asked if Maya Deren were making her films now, how would her work be received? The choreographer gave the audience a very brief bio about her "in case anyone wasn't familiar with her work." I wouldn't be surprised if more students out of Intro to Film or Psychoanalysis or Women's Studies knew her name and had seen Meshes of the Afternoon than students out of Dance Theory.

The title of this entry is so named because there is another female artist whose work I find absolutely intriguing and who could be Maya Deren's twin aesthetically and creatively. Her name is Kate Bush.

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Bjork might be more blatantly eccentric and surreal than Kate Bush, but I think there's an unmistakable Maya Deren presence in Kate Bush's music videos. I don't remember the first time I heard Kate's song "Running Up That Hill," but it was on a cassette tape a poet friend of mine sent to me years ago, and it sounded so familiar. There is a moment in my past that I cannot recall!

Musically and lyrically, some people would more readily cite a Tori Amos connection with the following song (a reverse connection that is, since Kate Bush was releasing music a decade before Tori). To me, though, the visuals make the song more Maya.

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If she feels so inclined, Ishtar might reprint an entry she wrote on Kate Bush in her personal blog.

Also posted at Sthemingway

pic creds: google image search

1 comment:

Ishtar said...

I think I had at one point pointed out to you how similar the 2 women look and even their aesthetics and movement and body language seem the same. It's quite undeniable that Kate was heavily influenced by her and why Kate's work so "avant-garde." What differentiates Kate from Bjork in my view is that Bjork's eccentricities sometimes almost seem forced. She is bolder and quirkier and often invokes fear and oddness.

Kate's music, lyrics, and singing are more elegant, and I think she is so in touch with the mythological archetypes that permeate her work (often or Irish background, as Kate is half-Irish, I believe). And it's about real people and their problems. "Running up that Hill" is a beautiful song about the way men & women misunderstand each other, and I love the lines "let me take this moment from you now... let's exchange the experience." It sends chills up my spine. Kate's work is far more subtle and I think intelligent, and that is why I love her so much more.

I first discovered Kate Bush by reading a Tori Amos review comparing the latter to the former, coincidentally enough.