Stan Brakhage


Excerpt from “Make Place for the Artist” by Stan Brakhage

I am presenting it in writing for someone else’s future. Someone may someday realize that the living artist has the eyes of the age he lives in. They may understand that he makes his magic for the moment. Who knows? Here’s what to do:
Make place for the artist. Do it now. For you, as well as him, tomorrow is too late. Firs must come understanding, not of the work but of the worker. Give him the right conditions. Here are the conditions. This breed requires freedom. Cages kill him. Restrictions constrict. This animal is forever at war with his own limitations by nature. The rules others try to impose usually only baffle and, finally, either destroy or else disinherit him.
The artist must be given more than enough rope. He often hangs, himself for experience, however this creature has a tough neck, give him time! He is perhaps more aware of time than any other type of individual. He is an explorer of his own dualities. He embarks on as many adventures as there are in a day. These are the components of his witch brew.
It takes time, also, to stir up a magic potion. Information for opportunists – the best way to get something from an artist is to leave him alone. Contradiction is part of the honesty he exercises. It is impossible for any man to express without contradicting himself every other statement and be anything but a liar, unless he is playing a part. The artist play his part best apart…..Make place for the artist. He must never be used as a material. Those who try to hold fire either burn their hands or put the fire out.
This is a hair of a dog, given with love and expectation.

If you don’t know who Stan Brakhage is….you should. He was an American filmmaker who helped push 20th century Experimental Film to new heights. He made over a hundred films and went through so many different style periods, exploring a variety of formats, approaches and techniques that included handheld camerawork, painting directly onto celluloid, fast cutting, in-camera editing, scratching on film, and the use of multiple exposures. He also wrote many essays and letters on many topics such as art, mythology, music, poetry, war, birth, mortality, and sexuality, all of which are included in his film works as well. Definitely worth seeking out….his films are unlike anything you have ever seen.

Here is an excerpt from Brakhage Scrapbook: Collected Writings 1964-1980

To Manis Pinkwater: Day before Thanksgiving, ’64

An artist MUST act on dream instruction (day AND nigh dream structures conditioning all his being) for continuance of his art. Some have called this “inspiration,” some “the word of God,” some (more modernly) “sub-conscious feed-back” or what-you-call-it – there IS a process which governs the arts, necessities of each medium which discipline the artist’s living making it impossible for him to exist in an avoidance fo the right, the rite: and it is very encouraging, AND ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for the movement of works of art into the world at large (not to mention proper celebration of birthdays), that there be others who permit instruction, always dream structured, and act of their given sense of right, thus participate in the rite, in whatever way their form of living enables them. “Art for art’s sake” is a term imposed on the, otherwise, opening field of the arts BY a negligent or INdifferent society, a seige, as it were, which does force an, otherwise ever opening, field into becoming a fortress of “ivory towers,” etc., and/or (more modernly) a game preserve, wherein the forces of nature may play withIN strictly boundaries imposed by most unnatural game wardens, a place where natural forces are appreciated (as if one could applaud the universe) rather than experienced.


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