The Canadian Art Database

Michael Snow
New York City (from a taped interview 23 May 1967)

snow image
(click on image for larger size)

First, Last 1967
Painted plywood. aluminum, glass
6' 10"H,6' 10" W, 6"D

First Last comes from the window pieces that I did beginning three years ago. This business of framing derives from a series running from the first "Walking Woman", paintings {where the figure was framed, cut-off) to the last highiy polished "Walking Woman" sculptures at Expo (which framed within themselves the reflected outside action). But both here and in the window pieces I am interested merely in the cut-out. This piece is a kind of absolute that frames things that are fortuitous. It is totally symmetrical, a perfect square in middle-grey, turned in on itself. The experience it gives should just happen: then maybe later you should think later of how it is done. When you look through the slots, first you see the shiny aluminium that is the inner basis of the work, and then you realize you are seeing a prism of some kind. Any chance thing can suddenly appear in it: whatever is going on on either side and in the sky. The top slot has a duller lining without much reflection, so that you look right up through that channel and see just that little slice of sky: but in the other slot, you get reactions back and forth. This sculpture is internal in that it feeds on what is external. It composes by the very limitations it imposes. Art is often a limitation, focusing-in on things. I think something quite different happens when you see that slice of sky from what happens when you see the sky in the usual way. There is something poetic about it being caught in that way. It is a little like what the camera does except that the sky is actually moving and isn't really caught.

For the last three or four years, I have been influenced by films and by the camera. When you narrow down your range and are looking through just that small aperture of the lens, the intensity of what you see is so much greater. But I tend to make sculpture that is sculpture, and films that are films, and I don't want to see them both together. I think each should have power enough within its own medium to be of interest. The term "mixed media" is often used to describe a kind of impressionism and I'm more interested in the specific than the general. However, I can't say I'm uninterested in so-called "mixed media" because the diversity of the things I do has sometimes seemed a problem to me and the idea that they all ought to happen together has been nagging at me for years. So far it's been enough of a problem just to make sculpture, just to make films, just to make music. If we are going to say "sculpture" we are going to have to say "theatre" or "opera" or "circus" and I have worked and still do in those media. Simultaneity is very interesting but I'm more interested in focus than in diffusion. One of the things about film that particularly fascinates me is the concentrated image-sound relationship.

I think it might be possible to live a life that did not actually involve making art, a life that is a kind of art itself. There are some experiences that can be called art. One morning on a bus trip I percerved a remarkable relationship between the seat in front of me, the ceiling of the bus and what was happening outside. This was art in the sense that I saw relationships that were particularly moving in the same way as if they were "framed" or "chosen". I think there is something religious involved in that kind of experience, and in art in general.

snow portrait

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