Michael Snow Teases the Eye and the Mind

Over the past half century, our attention span has been shortened. Michael Snow’swavelength(1967) is an austere 45-minute film made by a Canadian artist as the gold standard of experimental cinema. Snow knew what he was up against. In 2003, he created a video called “WVLNT: WAVELENGTH for those Who Don’t Have the Time: Original 45 Minutes, Now 15!” It wasn’t just a joke or a concession.I know People were choosing to watch his movies digitally at double speedSnow seized the opportunity to create a completely new piece, layering 15-minute segments of the original together like layers of gauze on celluloid film.

Both “Wavelength” and “WVLNT” are on display. “Michael Snow: A Life Survey (1955-2020)” A glorious exhibition of some 80 works at The School, gallerist Jack Scheinman’s outpost in Kinderhook, New York. It also reveals how the late Snow worked across media and genres, such as painting, sculpture, and installation. and music. What really fascinated him was the question of how we see, hear and perceive reality, and how art, language and technology continue to shape this experience.

Snow’s early abstract paintings of the 1950s and ’60s are largely unremarkable, reflecting artists such as Paul Klee, Jasper Johns, and Franz Klein. However, there is a subtle obsession with how images are constructed, especially in drawings and canvases divided into grids and boxes. , a bit like filmstrips or storyboards.

His first successful experiment in 1963 was to create a cut-out silhouette, which he called a “walking woman”, which became a signature motif. Similar projects using the female body as an object or formal medium would be frowned upon in many quarters today. But Snow’s Walking Woman explores how women’s representations have been captured in the mass media, especially in mainstream animation, by artists such as Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Willem de Kooning, and Ray Johnson. clearly reflects the change in (TV shows such as “The Jetsons” and “The Flintstones” feature curvaceous women, resembling walking women, but appearing in the early 1960s and the first of Snow in the 50s). The movie work of was animated.)

A photograph titled Woman Walking in the Subway (1963) shows a surprised woman reacting to a life-size plywood walking woman propped up against a subway entrance. It’s “funny” (so you can see how it’s supposed to be funny), but it’s also a bit alarming. The 12-minute film A Little Walk (1964-2005) truly brought Snow to artistic maturity. Here, he uses the silhouette of a walking woman to create a magical show of contrast. Positive/Negative, Figure/Ground, Surface/Frame are the staples of what is called “”.The movie “The Structuralist”the category where Snow was enshrined.

The Walking Woman then largely retreated, with Snow focusing on the technical properties of various media. One Two Three (2002) features cut-up black-and-white photographs of a single tree, creating a choppy vision, film-strip-like, but still-photo-like. “Handed to Eyes” (1983) applied oil paints to color photographs, turning them into updated Cezanesque still lifes. The wonderfully quirky Flash! 20:49 15/6/2001 (2001) depicts a moment of chaos at the dinner table, but all the tumbling “effects” were not created digitally, but performed by two performers. was given.

Time becomes a more powerful medium in film and video work. (Snow is called a “wavelength”, a “monument of time”.) In the beautifully still “Breath of the Sun (Northern Caryatids)” (2002), one of the Caryatid sculptures that supported ancient Greek temples Like, a curtain with folds flutters. Breeze. Corner of Black and Picasso Streets (2009) is a real-time video projection of a corner of Chelsea, using image ideas and the viewer’s point of view. Exactly like the Cubist, but with the addition of modern video surveillance. The videos projected onto the four walls of the room in “Piano Sculpture” (2009) all focus on Snow’s hands (he was a professional jazz pianist) playing the instrument, making the performance impossible. Synchronization. Through the video he creates a piano solo and a quartet at the same time. .

Next is Wavelength (1967). Screened every Saturday at 1 p.m. on the original 16mm celluloid, the film featured a photograph of the ocean mounted on the opposite wall of a loft in downtown Manhattan as a fixed camera slowly zoomed in and eventually Made by swallowing. The room in the movie is lined with windows resembling a filmstrip, and the video is accompanied by a rising sound produced by a sine wave generator. Despite the avoidance of narrative and story in experimental films, genuine “action” occurs. The Beatles play on the radio, and the character played by film director Hollis Frampton dies. But in a truly avant-garde fashion, the real subject of ‘Wavelength’ is cinema itself, how sound, light and time are constructed by this technological medium.

I wanted to sum up my nervous systemSnow once wrote of the film — a work that was all “universally equivalent.” Given my current nervous system turmoil, “Wavelength” feels more like a meditation than an endurance test. Measured accuracy is unattainable in everyday life, but Snow’s film still feels structurally and cosmically sound.

Michael Snow: A Life Survey (1955-2020)

Until December 16, The School (Jack Shainman Gallery), 25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY, (518) 758-1628. Jack Shineman.com.

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