19.9.12

Marie Menken


GENERAL INTRODUCTION:

"Born in 1910, Marie Menken was one of the originals of the New York underground film scene, long before the term 'underground' even existed. Working with her husband, Willard Maas, she began working in the 1940s on a variety of short experimental films, all of which were marked by her lyricism, grace, and simplicity. As the two founding members of The Gryphon Group, Menken and Maas collaborated informally on several of Maas films, such as 'Geography of the Body' (1943) and 'Image in The Snow' (1952), but Maas’ films were often rather grandiose and somewhat pretentious, while Menken’s works are a lightness of touch that is hers alone. In such brief films as 'Visual Variations on Noguchi' (1945), an homage to the Japanese-American sculptor Isamu Noguchi; 'Hurry! Hurry!' (1957), in which male sperm flutter by on the screen in microscopic photography; 'Dwightiana' (1957), a stop motion animation using beads and scraps of paper, made 'to entertain a sick friend'; and 'Andy Warhol' (1965), at 22 minutes one of the longest of her films, and one of the few films shot at Warhol’s silver factory that actually show the artist at work, Menken forged a sensibility that was uniquely her own, in which the camera became a gently interrogating presence in her hands.
 
In addition, Menken kept a epigrammatic film diary, which eventually surfaced in her compilation film  'Notebook' (1963), which was comprised of clips of Marie’s filmmaking, going back as far back as the late 1940s, and presented life in the city as a series of gently abstract visual poems. Marie was a large woman, rather bulky, and yet she projected an air of quiet gentility and modesty, unlike Willard, who was often quite pugnacious and voluble on his life and work. Marie used her Bolex camera to record little scraps of life around her, bringing the most mundane activities into the realm of the miraculous. As Menken said in 1966, 'There is no why for my making films. I just liked the twitters of the machine, and since it was an extension of painting for me, I tried it and loved it. In painting I never liked the staid and static, always looked for what would change the source of light and stance, using glitters, glass beads, luminous paint, so the camera was a natural for me to try – but how expensive!'  And yet, although she struggled financially to make these little films, in the end, they amount to an indispensable record of a time and place now lost to authentic recall." 
(Wheeler Winston Dixon)

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FILMOGRAPHY:

Visual Variations on Noguchi (1945)
Hurry! Hurry! (1957)
Glimpse of the Garden (1957)
Dwightiana (1957)
Faucets (1960, unfinished)
Eye Music in Red Major (1961)
Arabesque for Kenneth Anger (1961)
Bagatelle for Williard Maas (1961)
Moonplay (1962)
Mood Mondrian (1963)
Drips and Strips (1963)
Notebook (1963)
Drips in Strips (1963)
Go Go Go (1963)
 Wrestling (1964)
Andy Warhol (1965)
Lights (1966)
Sidewalks (1966)
Watts with Eggs (1967)
 Excursion (c. 1968)

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(Arabesque for Kenneth Anger)

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MATERIALS ON MENKEN:
The Paintings of Marie Menken on MORE MILK YVETTE
Work in Progress... by Caroline Guo

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 (from Film Culture No. 78)



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From Brakhage Scrapbook: Collected Writings:



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From Film at Wit's End... by Stan Brakhage:



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(from Film Culture No. 45):



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(from Film Culture No. 63-64):



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Excerpts from Movie Journal... by Jonas Mekas



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Excerpts from The Garden in the Machine by Scott MacDonald





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(from Grey Room Summer 2009)



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Excerpt from Women's Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks:



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Excerpt from Women and Experimental Filmmaking:



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Excerpt from FilmWise No. 5-6 :



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(Lights)

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MENKEN ON FILM/VIDEO:

Canyon Cinema
Film-makers' Coop
Notes on Marie Menken (film)
Notes on Marie Menken (DVD w/four shorts)
Treasures IV: American Avant-Garde Film, 1947-1986

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(Glimpse of the Garden)

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INTERVIEWS:

(from FilmWise No. 5-6):



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(all frames via Anthology Archives)
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"Mostly people I love, for it is to them that I address myself.  Sometimes the audience becomes more than I looked for, but in sympathy they must be my friends.  There is no choice, for in making a work of art one holds in spirit those [that] are receptive, and if they are, they must be one's friends."
(Marie Menken)

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1 comments:

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