‘An Occult Avantgarde’ – Professor Judith Noble to lecture on filmmakers Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger
Arts University Plymouth and Plymouth Arts Centre will host Professor Judith Noble’s free professorial lecture, ‘An Occult Avantgarde: Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger - Magic, sexuality, gender and transcendence’, on Thursday 30 November from 6pm. After the lecture, Plymouth Arts Cinema will screen a showing of ‘Performance’ (1970), a film selected by Judith Noble, featuring Mick Jagger and James Fox. Tickets for the film can be purchased from the Plymouth Arts Cinema website.
Professor Judith Noble will discuss the occult philosophies that were a central element of the work of Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger, and the ways in which these influenced their filmmaking. Deren’s dialogue with surrealism and the occult, and Anger’s roots in Thelemic magic, shaped not only the content but also the form of their films. Noble examines two key films: ‘Deren’s Ritual in Transfigured Time’ (1946) and Anger’s ‘Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome’ (1954), that critiqued and transcended heteronormative concepts of sexuality and gender and began a process that was at the heart of the counterculture and the ‘New Hollywood’ of the 1970s, and which continues today.
Professor Judith Noble
Filmmakers Maya Deren and Kenneth Anger reinvented cinema as an occult artform, creating a cinematic magic that could only exist on screen. Both moved towards a radical re-imagining of sexuality and gender; both began their careers within a West Coast occulture that shaped their philosophies and practice, and both had a profound effect on the counterculture of the 1960s but also on mainstream cinema.
As part of the lecture, Plymouth Arts Cinema will be showing ‘Performance’, (18+, 1970) from 8pm, featuring Mick Jagger. Regarded as one of the greatest British films ever made, in ‘Performance’ the occult meets the counterculture meets the London underworld in Cammell and Roeg’s cult masterpiece. Starring James Fox, Mick Jagger, Anita Pallenberg and Michelle Breton, with music by Mick Jagger and Ry Cooder, ‘Performance’ is ostensibly a crime movie about rock and roll. The film is a disturbing but beautiful mix of occult ideas that explores the nature of gender and identity, and the relationships between violence and creativity, hallucinogens and music, amorality, power and death.
‘Performance’ director and screenwriter Donald Cammell was a key figure in the Luciferian London scene in the 1960s. His father became a close friend of Aleister Crowley (who was the infant Cammell’s babysitter). Cammell worked with Kenneth Anger and would go on to play Osiris in Anger’s ‘Lucifer Rising’ (1981). The script advisor was the mysterious counterculture figure David Litvinoff, associate of the Krays, who modelled for painter Lucien Freud. Litvinoff was described by Cammell as a genius and the film’s guiding spirit.
A still from Performance (1970) featuring a young Mick Jagger
Judith Noble said: “I snuck in to see this very X-rated film at the age of 15 in Manchester. More than any other film, ‘Performance’ made me want to be a filmmaker.”
Professor of Film and the Occult Judith Noble is a board member of the Research Network for the Study of Esoteric Practices (RENSEP), joint coordinator of the Black Mirror research network, and actively involved in research and publication. Until Summer 2023, she was Head of Academic Research at Arts University Plymouth. Her research interests centre on experimental, avantgarde and artists film, surrealism and the occult and magic. She has published extensively on Maya Deren, Kenneth Anger and Derek Jarman, and on film and the occult. She founded and is a member of the Inner Space Exploration Unit (ISEU), an artists’ project with members from Arts University Plymouth, the University of Cambridge and Arts University Bournemouth that makes practice-led collaborative research that is published online and exhibited physically.
She has recently completed work on Kenneth Anger, magical practice and the West Coast avantgarde, and on Maya Deren and surrealism. In 2014, she organised the Visions of Enchantment Cambridge conference with Daniel Zamani. Before returning to higher education in 2007, Noble worked for many years in arts funding and the film industry. From 1984 to 1996, she was Film and Television Officer at South West Arts; from 1996 to 2001, she was Chief Executive of the South West Media Development Agency and from 2001 to 2006, she was Head of Production at Sgrin Cymru Wales, where she was responsible for executive-producing and developing feature films supported by the Wales Lottery Film Fund. These included Peter Greenaway’s ‘Tulse Luper Suitcases’ trilogy (in competition at Cannes and Berlin 2002 to 2004), Amma Asante’s ‘A Way of Life’ (BAFTA Winner 2005), ‘Patagonia’ (Gruff Rhys) and ‘Sleep, Furiously’ (Gideon Koppel). In 2007 she joined the staff of the BA (Hons) Film Production course at Arts University Bournemouth. She held an Arts University Bournemouth Research Fellowship in 2010 to 2011, trained as a PhD supervisor and became Course Leader for BA (Hons) Film Production in 2014 and Associate Professor in 2015, before taking up her post at Arts University Plymouth.
In her role at Arts University Plymouth, Noble was responsible for the development of research culture and provision; devising and implementing research policy and strategy; developing and managing staff research; coordinating and developing research groups; managing major projects; and was joint editor of Making Futures online journal.
Noble is a member of the International Society for the Study of Surrealism and the European Society for the Study of Western Esotericism. She is a trustee of Plymouth Arts Cinema and a director of Pagan Phoenix SW. She holds an MFA from Reading (1980) and a BA (Hons) in Fine Art from Nottingham Trent (1978).