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Directors in Focus
Being Michael Snow

Through nearly a half century of art making, Michael Snow has found an astounding variety of forms through which to find personal expression. Whether seated at the piano, standing at the easel, working behind a camera, or engaged in fabricating sculptures, collages, or holograms, Snow has created a body of heterogeneous works that nevertheless reflect the rigor and humor of this very contemporary Renaissance man. The scope of his accomplishments were given visibility through a series of exhibitions, performances, screenings, and publications in the mid-1990s in his native Canada. Over the past few years, a similar set of events has taken place across Western Europe. In anticipation of the tardy arrival of such recognition in this country and to mark the release of his first feature-length film in nearly two decades, as well as the release of Teri Wehn-Damisch’s new documentary on the artist, we present this retrospective survey of some of Snow’s seminal cinema.


April 6 (Sunday) 7 pm

Wavelength

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 1966–67, 16mm, color, 45 min.

Winner of the Grand Prize at the Fourth International Experimental Film Festival at Knokke-le-Zoute in 1967 and highly influential in its time, Wavelength masterfully conducts us through a filmic exploration of the phenomenology of space and time as it manages to encapsulate both the artist’s autobiography and the aesthetic zeitgeist of its era. The film has often been reduced to a single, structural description: "one room and one zoom." Yet despite Snow's aspiration to work with "pure film space and time," the finished work is all the more remarkable for the array of cultural detritus it incorporates (a Beatles song on the sound track, store signs that dominate the view from his windows), the personal references it contains (works of art, friends and lovers), and even the traces of a murder mystery–cum–Manhattan melodrama.

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April 6 (Sunday) 7 pm

So Is This

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 1982, 16mm, b/w and color, silent, 43 min.

Made during the heyday of film theory’s infatuation with the textual aspects of the medium and of complex semiotic approaches to the language of cinema, So Is This is a riotously reflexive work that literalizes the concept of film as text: consisting entirely of printed intertitles, it is a silent comedy played out in the minds of each viewer.

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April 6 (Sunday) 7 pm

See You Later/Au revoir

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 1990, 16mm, color, 18 min.

One of Snow’s most beautiful works in any medium, See You Later/Au revoir uses a simple slow motion technique to transform a routine workplace into what the artist has described as "a slightly activated Vermeer."


April 7 (Monday) 6 pm

Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 1974, 16mm, color, 270 min.

Scripted and shot during a highly productive period in the early 1970s (when Snow made his monumental La Région Central), Rameau’s Nephew presents multiple attempts by "Wilma Schoen" (screen alter-ego of the filmmaker himself) to make an authentic "talking picture." The result resembles by turns a crazy comedy and a philosophical treatise as performers, including video artist Nam June Paik and critic and theorist Annette Michelson, struggle with their line readings, as piano keys emit passionate erotic moans, and as the existence of physical objects are placed into doubt. Snow sets into motion a vigorous dialogue between sound and image that feels at moments like the remake of a Jacques Tati film scripted by Ludwig Wittgenstein—or a restaging of Diderot by Wilma Schoen.

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April 8 (Tuesday) 7 pm

Breakfast (Table Top Dolly)

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 1972–76, 16mm, color, silent, 15 min.

This is a simple yet uncanny work that focuses on a contemporary still life set into motion. The protracted production process has been wryly attributed by the artist to "sound and editing problems"—odd for a silent, single-image work.

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Corpus Callosum

Directed by Michael Snow
Canada 2002, digital video, color, 92 min.

Named for the portion of the human brain that transmits signals between the two hemispheres, Snow’s ambitious new digital feature operates in the manner of Wavelength, situating a wide range of ideas, theories, and observations within the portrait of a quotidian space. The dominant formal device is a peripatetic lateral tracking shot that converts the space of a contemporary office into a looping mobius-strip of desks and workstations—all of which becomes, in Snow’s words, "tableaux of transformation, a tragicomedy of cinematic variables." Connecting with some of the artist’s earliest work, *Corpus Callosum concludes with the resurrection of a charming piece of stick-figure animation, the very first moving-image work of this modern master.

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April 28 (Monday) 7 pm
Director Teri Wehn-Damisch in Person

On Snow’s Wavelength: Zoom Out

Directed by Teri Wehn-Damisch
France 2001, video, color, 56 min.

In capturing the impact of Snow’s celebrated film Wavelength, filmmaker Teri Wehn-Damisch inverts that work’s formal process, beginning with a narrow field and ending with seven screens and a grand piano with the artist in performance. In between, as the frame widens, we are taken on a journey largely narrated by Snow himself: through his diverse works in still photography, cinema, and film-related forms that demonstrate the artist’s formal mastery and aesthetic evolution.

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