New York

Michael Snow

The Center For Inter-American Relations

Since Michael Snow’s reputation rests largely on his films, it is no surprise that about half of his show, “About 30 Works by Michael Snow” at the Center for Inter-American Relations, are films. I cannot comment on La Région Centrale as I haven’t yet seen it, and there isn’t much point in my writing about those films I have seen as Snow’s cinematic production has already been so thoroughly analyzed as to make my comments repetitious and naive. The rest of Snow’s art, that which more conventionally fits into a gallery situation, is not as powerful as his films but can be seen to show the same concerns. Those concerns are basically showing the perception of reality to be contingent on the place from which the perceiving is done—in Snow’s case, the location of the camera. And in this sense, a connection can be seen with Dibbets’ work and a general connection between Snow’s work and Les Levine’s Position, the difference being that Levine clearly isn’t interested in perception or in reality as it is perceived from a given position except metaphorically. The most obvious connection between Snow and Dibbets, beyond the fact that they both use photography and perceptual constructions of “reality,” is that they each made a work in 1970 titled Venetian Blind, which is probably only a matter of coincidence. Dibbets’ work is a film of a venetian blind on a window which opens and closes, controlling the amount of light let in and what is seen of “the world” out the window. The title in Snow’s work is a pun, if not on Dibbets’ work of the same title, on the situation presented in the photographs of Snow’s work. Snow’s Venetian Blind is 24 color photographs of Snow riding through a canal in Venice with his eyes closed, and the photographs were made by Snow’s holding a Polaroid camera at arm’s length; so Venetian Blind is not only a set of pictures of a man in Venice blind by virtue of having his eyes closed, but were photographed “blind.” Snow’s interest in reality as a contingency is most obvious in Crouch, Leap, Land of 1970 which is three photographs taken, metaphorically, from under the floor, the floor in this case being a piece of Plexiglas on which a woman crouches, leaps, and lands as the title says. The work is presented with the photographs suspended from the ceiling and facing the floor so that a person looking at them must get into a position similar to that of the camera’s position when the photographs were taken. Most of Snow’s photographic works shown here, including the two described, were shown at Bykert a few years ago. De La, a video work dated 1969–72, also explores this notion of the contingency of perceptual reality and employs the machine used in the filming of La Région Centrale, which has been modified for a video camera. The machine rotates the camera around an axis so that just about every angle of view possible from that axis is taken by the camera. Around the machine are four monitors which show what the camera takes in as it is rotated by the machine. In this case, we see the machine determining what is photographed and from what angle and the image photographed on the monitor simultaneously, but most of the time, the physical objects from which the image is made and the image itself are not easily reconcilable, because we either can’t or don’t get into the positions the camera gets into by the rotations of the machine. It is easy to see the relevance of Snow’s gallery work to his films, but Snow’s films are radically different from other films, which raises expectations for his more conventional art work that go unfulfilled because his gallery work is not so different from that of other artists.

––Bruce Boice