Maxi Cohen is an award-winning artist and filmmaker based in New York City. Her films, photographs and multimedia installations have been exhibited internationally and are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum for American Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Her films have played in movie theatres, film festivals and television around the world.
After graduating from New York University, Cohen directed and produced a weekly television series called Are You There? in Cape May, New Jersey, that was cited as the “first example of community interactive television” by the National Cable Television Association. In New York City, she became the director of the first public access facility in the country, as part of the Alternate Media Center. At the same time, she set up the distribution system of Electronic Arts Intermix, now the largest distributor of video art in the world. She co-founded the Independent Feature Project and First Run Features, the first company devoted to distributing American independent films.
Cohen directed and produced Joe and Maxi, a feature-length documentary about her relationship with her father. That film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was theatrically released in 1980, is now in the Museum of Modern Art archives. Known for its groundbreaking intimate form and content, Joe and Maxi was awarded a preservation grant for its 35mm print by the NYWIFT Preservation Fund. She participated in the omnibus feature film, Seven Women Seven Sins, in which seven internationally acclaimed directors re-interpreted the seven deadly sins. For the sin of Anger, Cohen interviewed people who answered an advertisement she placed in the Village Voice. In response to the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Cohen directed and produced South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices. She gave video cameras to African Americans, Latinos and Korean Americans who lived in the areas most affected by the fires, vandalism and violence of the riots, to learn about the depths of racism from a firsthand perspective. The documentary was the first film made about racism that included diverse factions and was the first made by real people. South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices made its American premiere on Showtime, and in Europe on France’s ARTE and Germany’s ZDF. In 1994, ZDF named it “Best Documentary in Series” for that year.
Cohen’s television work includes short films produced for Saturday Night Live, the Comedy Channel, MTV Networks, PBS, Children’s Television Workshop, and Fox Broadcasting. She has independently produced and directed shorts and feature-length documentaries, fiction and animation that have been broadcast on network, cable, public, and foreign television.
Works in Progress
For more than thirty years, Cohen has been photographing, and more recently filming, in women’s restrooms across the globe, from the Australian outback to Zambian discos. Ladies Rooms Around the World, a project celebrating women’s courage and creativity while advocating for their rights, includes large-scale photographs, site-specific installations, a multimedia exhibition, and a documentary film.
Cohen has been filming and photographing lush abstractions of water for the last decade. She has filmed pools, lakes, rivers, oceans, waterfalls, and hot springs, as she has travelled from Argentina to Zimbabwe, Bali to Rio de Janeiro, Bosnia to Botswana, and elsewhere. This journey has resulted in large-scale photographs, video sculptures and installations. She is currently developing A Movement in Water, a monumental multimedia installation that immerses the viewer in the sublime moving majesty of water and is intended to shift psychology and inspire reverence for water.
For the last five years, Cohen has filmed her family for the upcoming documentary, Fighting for Wind, which will serve as a sequel to Joe and Maxi. She continues to intimately record her family’s triumphs and tragedies, particularly those of her brother Danny Cohen, as he is poised to build the first offshore wind farm in the Americas off the coast of New Jersey.
While in the process of making the documentary, The Holy Give Me, about plants in the Amazon Basin used for healing, visioning and communing with the divine, she has used video to create multimedia installations, including Specimens from the Amazon and Mystery School.