"Poetic(s) of incompleteness" is the title that Alejandra Riera has chosen as a means to dwell on certain experiences at a greater depth than cinema, even if cinema's role is to accompany them.
Her study entails, as one its points of departure, a series of gestures which disclaim and challenge the predominant role of the solo artist and his or her work – an artist so often compelled to take on the role of “possessor” or “groundbreaker,” less and less possessed and passionate, no longer lost in dialog with the things and others.
A Poetics of incompleteness, therefore, that does not imply, as such, the impossibility of engaging in, and accomplishing gestures, but on the contrary, creates tensions that help do away with whatever oppresses us – whatever shapes and governs our perceptions.
Gestures such as those which the filmmaker Maya Deren confirmed in 1951 when she declared that she felt obliged to abandon her role as an artist and forgo any manipulation – aimed at creating an artwork – of the footage she gathered during trips to Haiti in 1947, 1949 and 1954. The footage included voodoo dances and rituals for a film project, which she intended to enlarge beyond the context of Haiti, and which ultimately remained unfinished. Having felt constrained, as she admitted, to film most “humbly and faithfully” a reality whose integrity imposed itself on her, she preferred, instead, to finish writing a study on voodoo cosmology, Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti (London & New York: Thames & Hudson, 1953).
She nevertheless did not entirely discard the footage and continued to work on it until her death; she henceforth abandoned any conventional use of the footage and of cinema. Deren stored the rushes she had filmed in Haiti in coffee tins and covered them with red adhesive tape. As she wrote, she put them aside and no longer knew where she had placed her initial plan for editing the film. She let go and refused to possess, without, however, refusing to give up.
In letting go in this way, she has offered us a gift. She had written: “My films are for everyone.” And the most striking aspect of that gift is perhaps the fact that this unmade “cinematographic collage” potentially combining footage shot in Haiti, sequences of children at play, which she intended to film in Haiti and New York, Balinese rituals, filmed by Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson, and Navajos dances remained dormant in her frenzy or intensity, and in her errors. It is perhaps even beyond the projection of these images that the coherency of such a collage can be found.
Outside of a collective endeavour, where individual preconceptions can be set aside, even if the seventeen reels of bare footage (approximately five hours of black and white silent film) shot by Maya Deren and preserved since 1972, at Anthology Film Archives, were restored they would not be legible. What needs to be restored, along with the rushes themselves, is the difficulty of transcribing an experience into film – without justifying or fetishizing it…
With: UEINZZ, Marine Boulay, atelier Lucioles, Alexandre Chanoine, Miriam Martín, Dean Inkster, Eleni Tranouli, Sybil Coovi-Handemagnon and Marine Lahaix (students from the École nationale supérieure d’art de Bourges). With additional assistance from Lore Gablier and Tamara Díaz.