After Snow, parts I-III, 2011
(best viewed by playing all 3 simultaneously)
Michael Snow’s 1970 film La Region Centrale (Snow, 1970) on the face of it takes as subject the barren landscape of sub-arctic Québec. The film camera is mounted on a roving machine-arm that turns, spins, tilts, and shifts the camera, never revealing itself. The camera tracks impossibly through all positions, permutations, zooms and speeds and is profoundly disorienting. The emptiness of the spare landscape becomes rich fodder for a mechanical eye that nonetheless appears to have a kind of agency. The landscape is upended, turned, scrutinized and ignored, revealed in realist detail and reduced to abstraction and pattern. What is evidenced is not the landscape per se but the very strategies required to create such images that heretofore had not likely been witnessed by human eyes. The edge of the frame itself becomes a kind of author, probing, scanning, selecting, and reconfiguring.
My version is part tribute and part reworking of a similar premise, 40 odd years later. Video not film, chaotic not controlled, disorientingly fast instead of probingly slow, a few minutes in duration compared to Snow's long contemplative passages. My version also contains the visible traces of the performer, artist as interlocutor, with lens cap and good winter boots in the periphery. The sounds of the mechanical author are here replaced by the rhythmic whisping of the wind, the breaths of the artist. Snow's film posits northern Québec as untouched wildness. Part II ofAfter Snow suggests a similar landscape becoming tamed and colonized as a airplane is seen approaching the hills outside Iqaluit, Nunavut.