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Thread: Meditation on Violence by Maya Deren

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    Fremont, CA, U.S.A.

    Meditation on Violence by Maya Deren

    I'm creating an indie thread for Laurie Anderson: Quanjing Jieyao Pian off of the Qi Jiguang's chapter on boxing in English thread, as well as a stand alone thread for Meditation on Violence by Maya Deren. Laurie concluded her Quanjing Jieyao Pian show last Saturday showing this video while adding her own soundtrack. It's a fascinating study which I've never seen before.

    Here's some discussion of it:

    This first article has the embedded video clip with the original music
    Meditation on Violence
    A poetic film by Maya Deren featuring performance by Chao Li-Chi
    21 May 2012

    Meditation on Violence (1948) a film by Maya Deren. Black and white, 16mm, 15mins.

    Playing out the movements of the Wu Tang ritual, American avant-garde filmmaker MAYA DEREN explores movement and performance in Meditation On Violence. Filmed in 1948, dancer CHAO LI-CHI delivers a performance blurring beauty into violence, the Yin into the Yang, light into darkness. Deren experiments with film time, reversing the film part way through producing a loop. Moving forwards and then backwards, the difference in the Wu Tang movements is almost imperceptible.

    Text by Sophie Pinchetti.

    Chao Li-Chi performing. A still from Meditation on Violence (1948) a film by Maya Deren. Black and white, 16mm, 15mins.

    Confronting Light and Darkness. A still from Meditation on Violence (1948) a film by Maya Deren. Black and white, 16mm, 15mins.

    A still from Meditation on Violence (1948) a film by Maya Deren. Black and white, 16mm, 15mins.
    Here's another article:
    Meditation On Violence (1948)
    8 MAR
    Director Maya Deren
    Producer Maya Deren
    Contributors Cherel Ito, Chao Li Chi
    Length 15 minutes
    B&W/Color B&W
    UO Library Catalog description: Based on traditional training movements of the Wu-tang and Shaolin schools of Chinese boxing. Solo performance with theatrical lighting but without scenery ; solo performance outdoors in costume.
    Call # Ma73
    Genre Short Films, Dance
    Rare Yes
    Online Yes
    Copyright status Public Domain
    Physical condition Good
    Oregon-related No

    Notes: Meditation On Violence is a short film directed by avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren. It was originally produced for a theatrical release in 1948. “Theatrical” is a term that should be used loosely, especially with Deren’s films, as the locales that she screened them in were usually art galleries or her own living room, which she converted into a makeshift theater for private viewings.

    The film features Chao Li Chi, a Shanxi-born actor and dancer who worked extensively in American television and film. Meditation On Violence was one of his firs appearances on film. In it, he attempts to display the ideals of the Wu-Tang philosophy, which centers around the idea of constant motion according to “-which the perfect form is that of no form in an excellent performance attempts to display the ideals of the Wu Tang philosophy which is a philosophy of constant motion, which is achieved when you’re in a state of constant motion” ( Chao Li Chi had an extensive history with Deren, and was a regular member of the dance troupe she was involved in during the 1940’s. I find it particularly interesting that Li Chi had such a successful career in Television and Film after working with Deren on such artsy, underground projects. He has subsequently appeared in Big Trouble In Little China, M*A*S*H, The Joy Luck Club, The Nutty Professor, The Prestige, Wedding Crashers and Pushing Daisies.

    While at first glance this film may seem just like a documentation of a dance sequence, the editing style elevates it above the status of performance piece. The avant-garde style of Maya Deren is certainly not as pronounced in Meditation On Violence as a film like Meshes Of The Afternoon, but their are a fair number of sequences shot in slow motion, and “-the camera itself becomes the boxer’s sparring partner, dodging and attempting to return the athlete’s blows. The adjustments, pans, and zooms of the camera simulate a human response” ( It should also be noted that the film loops, returning to the first sequence. This technique breaks the passage of time, which was very typical of Deren’s films.

    Another interesting thing is to note the soundtrack. Deren recorded Haitian drums for the piece, which reflected her fascination with Voodoo during the time period it was made.
    And here's a vid that has an alternate soundtrack:
    Gene Ching
    Author of Shaolin Trips
    Support our forum by getting your gear at MartialArtSmart

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 1969
    CA, USA
    Interesting. Thanks for posting, Gene.

    I remember seeing Chao-Li Chi demonstrating Tai Chi in 1998 at Master Share K. Lew’s birthday celebration. His Tai Chi form was quite good; IMO, better than his form was in this 1948 film.

    He also played Jackie Chan’s dad in Jackie’s first American movie, 1980’s ‘The Big Brawl’ (a.k.a., Battle Creek Brawl).
    Last edited by Jimbo; 01-30-2020 at 06:38 PM.

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