Psyché Tropes Episode 19
11pm, 22 January 2024

Psyché Tropes Episode 19
presented by Steven McInerney delves into the mesmerizing world of Maya Deren and Teiji Ito, two pioneers in the realms of experimental film and avant-garde music. Their collaboration birthed timeless films that continue to captivate audiences and inspire contemporary artists and filmmakers.

Known as the 'mother of avant-garde film', Maya Deren was a Ukrainian-born American experimental filmmaker and important part of the avant-garde film movement in the 1940s and 50s. Deren was also a choreographer, dancer, film theorist, poet, lecturer, writer, sound recordist and photographer.

Deren abandoned established notions of physical space and time, innovating through carefully planned films with specific conceptual aims utilizing editing, multiple exposures, jump-cutting, superimposition, slow-motion, and other camera techniques to her advantage.


Ito was born in Tokyo, to a theatrical family. His mother, Teiko Ono, was a dancer and his father, Yuji Ito, was a designer and composer. His family moved to the United States when he was six. Ito accompanied his mother's dance performance at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and began to compose at the age of 17. He met Maya Deren during his time in New York and in 1955, traveled with her to Haiti. There, Ito studied under a master drummer and would compose scores for Deren.

In 1943, Deren purchased a used  Bolex 16mm camera with some of the inheritance money after her father died. This camera was used to make her first film, Meshes of the Afternoon from 1943, made in collaboration with Alexander Hammid in their Los Angeles home on a budget of $250. Meshes of the Afternoon is recognised as a seminal American avant-garde film and is the first example of a narrative work of it's kind. Originally a silent film with no dialogue, music for the film was composed, long after its initial screenings, by Itō in 1952.

The central figure, played by Deren, is attuned to her unconscious mind and caught in a web of dream events that spill over into reality. Symbolic objects, such as a key and a knife, recur throughout the film; events are open-ended and interrupted. By 1942 Deren was publishing articles about Haitian religion and dance. She focused on the spiritual implications of Vodou, which inspired her to spend years in Haiti, where she produced film footage, hundreds of photographic negatives, and an ethnographic book.

in 1953. Deren released 'Voices of Haiti' a 10 inch on the newly formed Elektra Records. These mono wire recordings were made during ceremonials near Croix Des Missions and Petionville in Haiti. Deren explains, “It is a record of labor, of the most serious and vital effort which a Haitian makes, for he is here laboring for divine reward, addressing himself, not to men but to divinity. They are singing for the gods. It is a privilege to have overheard and to have recorded it.” Up until her premature and sudden death in 1961, Deren found nourishment in the concepts of the metaphysical and the physical, of space and time, of life and death manifested in African-based religions, ritual, and dance.


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