Michael Snow
Canada, 1928
Michael Snow (Toronto, Canada, 1929) has worked with music, sculpture, painting, photography and film. He studied design at the Ontario College of Art and briefly worked on animation films in the mid-fifties. Despite this early, fleeting foray into the world of film, Snow’s artistic career got under way in the field of music, working as a jazz musician. He has never sought to find a narrative in the media he uses and his work squeezes every last possibility out of the characteristics of the medium in question. In his own words, “I try to get something specific out of every medium I use.” As a whole, Snow’s work explores how vision and perception work in detail. Although Snow already enjoyed a solid reputation as a painter and musician in Toronto, international recognition came when he moved to New York in 1962. Here, Snow came into contact with the avant-garde and met artists such as Yvonne Rainer, Philip Glass, Sol LeWitt, Hollis Frampton and Jonas Mekas. Snow added film to the media under his belt in 1964, the year he made New York Eye and Ear Control. The work that was universally acclaimed as a truly iconic piece of experimental film, though, was Wavelength (1967), which has had praise heaped upon it ever since its first screening. In each of his films, Snow probes a specific aspect of filming, certain techniques, processes and features of filming equipment. In the 45-minute film Wavelength, shot in a room, the focus is on the camera’s zoom, the representation of a space through a movement in perception unavailable to the human eye. After making several films inside (Wavelength, Standard Time and Back and Forth), Snow decided to shoot outside and make a film about a landscape. To make La Région centrale Snow designed a base for a film camera that would enable it to follow the movements of nature; according to him, circular and elliptical movements were the appropriate way of representing a landscape on film. In See you later / Au revoir (1990) another camera movement is under study—in this case, super-slow motion. The scene shows Snow himself leaving an office and saying goodbye to his secretary. The original 30-second scene is slowed down and stretched out to 18 minutes. Recorded first on video and then later transferred to film, this piece made use of saturated colours to pay a tentative tribute to Dutch painting.
Neus Miró