Maya Deren – Haitian Rushes

With Martina Kudláček and Michael Oppitz
16 Jan 2016 | Johann Jacobs Museum

Deren’s Haitian footage, including sound recordings and photographs, is around six hours in length. The material is a sort of construction site after the artist did not return to it before her premature death in 1961. Deren had originally gone to Haiti with the intention of making a film about the various forms of Haitian dance. Once there, she decided to confront the reality of the Vodoun. In other words, she would not be making an ethnographic documentation about ceremonial dance but a film that would evolve to a certain extent from the inherent logic of the ceremonies themselves.

On the occasion of the exhibition The Haitian Rushes by Maya Deren we ask: How can we approach this equally fragmented and fascinating material today, material that bears witness to the abysses of transcultural experience, of phenomena we are unable to interpret?


Colloquium with

Martina Kudláček, Austrian filmmaker and responsible for the restoration of Maya Deren’s Haitian footage which is kept at Anthology Film Archive (New York). Her award-winning documentary film In the Mirror of Maya Deren (2001) was the fruit of years of intensive research, also in Haiti.

Michael Oppitz, for many years Professor of Ethnology at the University of Zurich and Director of the Ethnographic Museum. His field research on shamanism won worldwide acclaim and resulted in an almost four-hour documentary, Shamans of the Blind Country (1980), which he shot in Nepal, together with a book of the same name (1981).

Moderated by Roger M. Buergel.