Michael Snow: Sequences
Sequences is a retrospective of the Canadian multidisciplinary artist, Michael Snow (Toronto, 1928) with works that span 50 years of his career, including video, sculpture, music, photography, and installations. It is an exhibition about seeing and looking – sometimes listening – and exploring the possibilities of these actions. It poses questions and shares the observations of the artist’s ever inquisitive mind, often inviting audience participation.
The best part perhaps are the sculptures, which invite the viewer to interact and engage with the space, these include some large structures which work as periscopes, altering our line of vision with the use of mirrors and passageways (Scope and First to Last, both 1967). Others direct our gaze with more subtlety, applying rules of perspective and visual language which guide our vision to one point or another.
Then there are photographs which turn us viewers into voyeurs or even participants. Powers of Two (2003), for example, is an enourmous life-sized photo of a couple copulating while the woman smiles directly at the camera. The photograph is printed on large transparent panels which hang from the ceiling and invite the viewer to walk all the way around, the transparency transforming them into characters in the intimate scene.
The most striking video piece was Solar Breath (Northern Caryatids) (2002) in which Snow records the movements of a curtain in his rural log cabin. In it we observe beautiful gentle flutters that occur alongside dramatic gusts which blow the fabric into large balloons only to slam it back into the glass, and out again. Snow says, “While on one level Solar Breath is merely a fixed-camera documentary recording, it is also the result of years of attention.”
Waiting Room (2000) is an instalation piece on time which consists of a waiting room equipped with chairs, sofa, lamps, speakers, a number dispenser, and a number display screen. A sign inside the room instructs the viewer to take a number from the dispenser by pushing a red button, then sit and wait for your number to appear on the screen, and leave the room when it does. Meanwhile the speakers play sounds recorded in the museum. It is a humorous meditation on the act of waiting, so often pointless and ridiculous, yet it offers us a space of empty time which we can fill as we wish.
We know it can be daunting to visit an exhibition like this one – “multidisciplinary art” and “video art” are often terms that raise alarms and recall works which threaten to confuse and lose you, only meant for people who are “serious about art” – but do not be afraid, Sequences is a fun, dynamic, and accessible exhibition. Try not to stress about the deeper meaning, and just enjoy the experience. We urge you to try.
Written by Kathleen Tompsett, 6 August 2015