Theory | Essay | Time-based Art | Contemplative Art
Marilyn “M” Freeman is a writer and media artist. Their book The Illuminated Space: A Personal Theory & Contemplative Practice of Media Art was published in 2020 by The 3rd Thing, winning the Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for Creativity & Innovation. Their text and media arts essays can be found at TriQuarterly, Blackbird, NinthLetter, The Fourth Genre and Abbey of the Arts. Freeman’s films have been or are being exhibited on PBS and in movie theaters, spirituality centers, galleries and at film festivals worldwide.
Released in 12 monthly installments, this suite of short films will trouble the boundaries between and within cinematic and literary forms. Helmed by contemplative filmmaker and autotheorist M Freeman, the series is curated by them along with Rana San and Chelsea Werner-Jatzke. In Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes writes “The incapacity to name is a good symptom of disturbance.” Each monthly release will include one to three short films and an accompanying critical essay that observes, wonders, speculates and imagines the implications of work that defies easy categorization and resists our impulse to name. This project challenges the page as the domain of literary art and invests fully in the conviction that necessary alternatives to received ideas about authorship, publishing and genre arise from artists who live and work outside the stockade of dominant culture: queer, Black and Indigenous womxn, other womxn of Color and people with disabilities.
Marilyn Freeman offers up a contemplative practice of dowsing for and creating “opportune moments” of insight and healing in time-based art. With humor and humility, Freeman reveals an innovative process developed over years of art-making, study and personal searching—a process of waking up again and again to the extraordinary possibilities hidden in everyday existence. Freeman introduces a theory of “evocative” practice as an alternative to the conventions of narrative and non-fiction film-making—a risky and rigorous engagement with form that invites the audience to participate in the creation of meaning. Their inquiry goes far deeper than just a critical study of audio/visual media—into the human heart with its shimmering capacity for honest and compassionate reckoning. Transgressing disciplinary boundaries and trading authority for authentic inquiry, Freeman takes us with them on a foray into time-based art that leaps and wanders from movie theaters to museums to Instagram in search of the “illuminated spaces” where we encounter ourselves and each other.
Art gives form to what we have experienced but have not found a way to express, and Freeman gives expression to what makes this act so vital. Stop, look, listen. Reflect. See how our past shapes our present and our present reshapes our past. Illuminate a dialectic. In a lyrical, devoutly modest and vibrantly alive voice, Freeman awakens us to numinous possibilities that await both in art and in the whole wide world around us. It is a book of uncommon grace. – Bill Nichols, author of numerous books including Introduction to Documentary, 3rd ed
Marilyn Freeman unfolds for us her contemplative and creative living practice of time-based media with affecting solicitude, disclosure, and exactness. By staging propitious encounters with the past and the present, the living world and inspiring films, she discloses the infinite potential of a dialectical method that seeks its own illuminated space in between sounds and images, trauma and intimacy, lyricism and playfulness, time and consciousness. Her timely book will speak to practitioners and critics alike. – Laura Rascaroli, author of The Personal Camera: Subjective Cinema and The Essay Film and How the Essay Film Thinks
In this startlingly beautiful and evocative work combining essay, poetry and prayer-like reflection, Marilyn Freeman unwinds the many elusive strands of the creative process. She urges us to wake up, to learn to love everything in the loving of one thing. Read, reflect, respond, rest becomes the practice that leads not only to deeper creativity, but also to more profound living. Through Freeman’s penetrating observations, her lucid vision, I felt as though I was hearing the voice of great mystic calling to me through time, through distance, through fog, speaking to me personally. – Judith Valente, author of several spirituality titles including How To Live; The Art of Pausing and Atchison Blue: A Search for Silence, A Spiritual Home and a Living Faith.
In “The Illuminated Space”, Marilyn Freeman draws from many different disciplines and forms, weaving these in with her own experience for the purpose of cultivating a consciousness fully awake. “Why wake up?” Freeman asks: “Because the world is beautiful. Because the world is terrible. Because we live in urgent times with no time to spare.” This pursuit of what she has coined “the illuminated space” is so beautifully serious and authentic it almost takes my breath away. Authoritative and yet vulnerable and evocative, this book is more than just art theory, philosophy, or a gentle guide towards holistic healing. It is a lifetime companion that invites continued participation, giving the reader a sense of agency and evoking new layers of meaning with each subsequent reading. – Gabriel Molinaro, Songwriter/Musician and Pastor/Sanctuary Church
The Illuminated Space is lyrical poetic tribute to queer independent and experimental film. It is such a joy. It demonstrates a life long healing practice that is deeply personal and deeply cinematic. – Gwendolyn Audrey Foster, Willa Cather Professor of English & Film, University of Nebraska, Lincoln