“My films are for everyone.
I include myself, for I believe that I am a part of, not apart from humanity; that nothing I may feel, think, perceive, experience, despise, desire, or despair of is really unknowable to any other man.
I speak of man as a principle, not in the singular nor in the plural.
I reject the accountant mentality which could dismember such a complete miracle in order to apply to it the simple arithmetic of statistics – which would reduce this principle to parts, to power pluralities and status singularities, as if man were an animal or a machine whose meaning was either a function of his size and number – or as if he were a collector’s item prized for its singular rarity.
I reject also that inversion of democracy which is detachment, that detachment which is expressed in the formula of equal but separate opinions – the vicious snobbery which tolerates and even welcomes the distinctions and divisions of differences, the superficial equality which stalemates and arrests the discovery and development of unity.
I believe that, in every man, there is an area which speaks and hears in the poetic idiom. something in him which can still sing in the desert when the throat is almost too dry for speaking.
To insist on this capacity in all men, to address my films to this – that, to me, is the true democracy…
I feel that no man has a right to deny this in himself; nor any other man to accept such self debasement in another, under the guise of democratic privilege.
My films might be called metaphysical, referring to their thematic content. It has required millenniums of torturous evolution for nature to produce the intricate miracle which is man’s mind. It is this which distinguishes him from all other living creatures, for he not only reacts to matter but can meditate upon its meaning. This metaphysical action of the mind has as much reality and importance as the material and physical activities of his body. My films are concerned with meanings – ideas and concepts – not with matter.
My films might be called poetic, referring to the attitude towards these meanings. If philosophy is concerned with understanding the meaning of reality, then poetry – and art in general – is a celebration, a singing of values and meanings. I refer also to the structure of the films – a logic of ideas and qualities, rather than causes and events.
My films might be called choreographic, referring to the design and stylization of movement which confers ritual dimension upon functional motion – just as simple speech is made into song when affirmation of intensification on a higher level is intended.
My films might be called experimental, referring to the use of the medium itself. In these films, the camera is not an observant, recording eye in the customary fashion. The full dynamics and expressive potentials of the total medium are ardently dedicated to creating the most accurate metaphor for the meaning.
In setting out to communicate principles, rather than to relay particulars, and in creating a metaphor which is true to the idea rather than the history of experience of any one of several individuals, I am addressing myself not to any particular group but to a special area and definite faculty in every or any man – to that part of him which creates myths, invents divinities, and ponders, for no practical purpose whatsoever, on the nature of things.
But man has many aspects – he is a many-faceted being – not a monotonous one-dimensional creature. He has many possibilities, many truths. The question is not, or should not be, whether he is tough or tender, and the question is only which truth is important at any given time.
This afternoon, in the supermarket, the important truth was the practical one; in the subway the important truth was, perhaps, toughness; while later, with the children, it was tenderness. Tonight the important truth is the poetic one.
This is an area in which few men spend much time and in which no man can spend all his time. But it is this, which is the area of art, which makes us human and without which we are, at best, intelligent beasts.
I am not greedy. I do not seek to possess the major portion of your days.
I am content if, on those rare occasions whose truth can be stated only by poetry, you will, perhaps, recall an image, even only the aura of my films.
And what more could I possibly ask, as an artist, than that your most precious visions, however rare, assume, sometimes, the forms of my images.”
— Maya Deren, A Statement of Principles (1961)