Page loading...

Michael Snow

  • Exhibition
  • 16 February 2023 - 16 April 2023
09_Snow_Cover to cover

curated by Elena Volpato

A film and a publication: Wavelength, 1967/2003, and Cover to Cover, 1975. Two works, two masterpieces of film history and of artists’ books, the perfect synthesis of the visual thought of Michael Snow (Toronto, 1928–2023), who recently passed away, and of his ability to turn a frame and a page into a space that verifies our perception.

Snow stated that Wavelength was an attempt to summarize his nervous system, his religious beliefs, and his aesthetic ideas into a form of pure space and time. The original version, which immediately became the paradigm of Structural film, is a zoom shot taken by a stationary video camera, filmed over the course of a day and a half and transformed into a montage of 45 minutes: the work begins with a wide shot of the inside of a loft and gradually focuses in on a small picture of a seascape hanging on the wall opposite the movie camera, between four large windows. The impassible zooming in is emphasized by the crescendo of the electronic sound of a sinusoidal wave, while the image is interposed with the use of different color filters and several enigmatic apparitions in the loft of men and women who are present without being a part of the story: the events, even though dramatic, are reduced to mere accidents with respect to the impersonal progression of the camera’s lens. In 2003, Snow decided to create a new shortened version, titled WVLNT, on display here and present in the collection of the VideotecaGAM, dividing the original work into three temporal segments lasting 15 minutes and overlapping them with each other as if the role of foreshadowing and memory can be detected in the apparent linearity of visual perception: the movement across space is made of both present vision, of memories of perceptions that have just passed, and of anticipating the space about to be reached. Folding time over on itself allowed Snow to acknowledge an even more elevated complexity of that filmic form of pure space and time he had already imagined in 1967.

A few years after making Wavelength, he applied the same discerning analysis by shifting his attention from film to publishing with Cover to Cover for the publications of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design which at that time was gathering the writings of some of the most prominent neo-avant-garde artists. It is a book composed exclusively of a vast sequence of photos between the front cover, which shows a closed door seen from the inside of a room, and the back cover, which portrays the same door from the outside in a photo that bears, with some signs of wear and tear, its own printed materiality. Between these two pictures of beginning and end, the inside of the book is a succession of spatial and temporal crossings, shot contemporaneously from two opposite vantage points: in front of and in back of, from the top and from the bottom, upright and upside-down, complicated by a constant interchange of photos and photos of photos.

An edition of Cover to Cover on display was recently acquired by the Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT for the Fondo Giorgio Maffei and is held in the artists’ books collection at GAM. Alongside the original 1975 version, visitors may leaf through a re-edition of the work Michael Snow published in 2020.

The acquisition and exhibition illustrate the joint collaboration and efforts of the Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT and GAM in enhancing artists’ books and videos.