Storm de Hirsch: Divinations, (1964)

Opening on Saturday, March 14 from 7-10pm, JOAN is pleased to present a one night screening of Storm de Hirsch’s Divinations (1964). The film will screen every 30 minutes.

Divinations is a hallucinatory, dizzying, and meditative collage of image and sound.  The work is part of de Hirsch’s (1912-2000) trilogy of films entitled The Color of Ritual, the Color of Thought (1964–67). To make the work she subjected rolls of 16mm sound tape and unused film stock to a process of cutting, scratching, and painting. Richly hued, abstract swaths of painted film are interspersed by black and white footage of a series of interior spaces. Multiple scenes depict a kind of circular motion–the camera spins around a room or tea leaves eddy at the bottom of a cup. An early film by de Hirsch, Divinations attests to the artist’s interest in form, color, and process, as well as myth, ritual, and mysticism.

De Hirsch (born Lillian Malkin) was a founding member of The Film-Makers’ Cooperative and a key participant in New York City’s experimental film scene of the 1960s. A contemporary and peer of Stan Brakhage, Shirley Clarke, and Jonas Mekas, she was a pioneer of frame-by-frame etching, painting, scratching, and generally disrespecting film stock. De Hirsch was also an accomplished poet before coming to film, just like the celebrated underground filmmaker Maya Deren, whose career was cut short just as De Hirsch’s began. Beyond both using pseudonyms, they shared an interest in the occult and earthy, dark subject matter. Many of her works also have a feminist provocation with an all-female cast and decidedly feminine perspective, specifically in Goodbye in the Mirror (1964) and her treatment of male nudes as an object of the gaze in Journey Around A Zero (1963). De Hirsch published her first collection of poems, Alleh lulleh cockatoo and other poems (Brigant Press, 1955), before making her first film in 1962.

Storm de Hirsch, Divinations, 1964, 16mm film still, courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, New York.

Storm de Hirsch, “Divinations,” 1964, 16mm film still, courtesy of Anthology Film Archives, New York.

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