The cinema of Maya Deren seems to anticipate Deleuze and Guattari’s theory of the rhizome. In their figuration, the rhizome is opposed to the linear, arborescent model. The rhizome is a concept of multiplicities, that resists organization and embraces heterogeneity and interpenetration. In my mind, the rhizome is linked to Maya Deren’s “Meshes.” In “Meshes of the Afternoon,” Deren subverts narrative reality with creative editing, camera angles, and psychological associations with symbols such as the key, the knife, and the ocean. Deren’s cuts imply connections between heterogenous images and concepts, a key tenet of the rhizome. The “mesh” of her title suggests an associative net or spider web that connects all concepts in the film. Even Deren’s “Choreography for a Camera” plays on the associative connections generated by the movement of the camera.

Indeed, we may see the rhizome as the paradigm for the early American avant-garde. In Anger’s films, we experience the pleasurable aspects of the rhizome. Bodies intermingle and concepts intertwine in both “Fireworks and Eaux d’Artifice.”

Menken’s “Lights” and Maas’s “Geography of the Body” echo the rhizome in their displacement and defamiliarization of the subject. The multiple points of light in Menken’s film illustrate the heterogeneity and decentralized nature of the rhizome, while Maas’s close-ups of the human body defamiliarize the body and cause each image to intermix with the next.

Rhizomes in the Afternoon


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