Canada : Michael Snow


Place des peaux


"Two rooms, forming a single space. Parallel to one wall sit 34 whitewood stretchers, each framing six transparent panes of various bright colours. In the two walls facing one another in each of the rooms, five holes project white light through the stretchers, throwing the shadows of the stretchers and the rectangles of colour formed by the panes onto each wall.

A visitor moving between the panes can see them as so many layers of paint, or perhaps as frame enlargements from a film. Another possible impression is that of moving between the condensed layers of colour of the shots in Snow's earlier film Wavelength, deployed in space, with the normally imperceptible interval between frames becoming the very place in which the visitor walks.

So well does the effect succeed that, for a visitor who keeps Wavelength in mind while facing the projection of Slidelength, and moves through Place des peaux (as one could do in spring 1998 during the exhibition Transparent at the Ferme du Buisson in suburban Paris), there is indeed a constant and disaggregated succession of physical and mental intervals at work. These are indeed "real-time perceptions" amid a "nebula of virtual images," endlessly transformed into one another." (From Raymond Bellour, "Présences virtuelles," lecture given in Geneva, April 2000)


Time figures everywhere in the work of Michael Snow, whether in photography, drawing and painting, film, holography, sculpture or music. At every turn there are examples, crossing boundaries and proposing interplay between media.

Place des peaux is a conversion of elements from an earlier work. First exhibited as a rainbow of theatrical gels fitted into the skylight areas of the railway roundhouse that housed The Spectral Image, Snow's monumental exhibition of holographic works and installations at Expo 86 in Vancouver, it was accompanied by a sequence of sustained tones that hovered over the space. Here was coloured light as parallel to sound, the tones held just at the threshold of attention, gradually changing as one moved through the exhibition space.

The sound element from The Spectral Image reappeared later as Diagonale, a sound installation with speakers of graduated size in a darkened room, shown at Galerie Obscure in Quebec City and then as part of the exhibition Musiques en scène at Lyon in 1999.

The gel frames were to wait for more than a decade before finding their new form at Transparent. Now refigured, Place des peaux has discarded its audio accompaniment to invite viewers' physical penetration into a field of cast shadows and transparent colour; moving bodies take on the role of articulating space and substance. At every moment there are new variations, a cinematic casting of projected light in the gallery space. The skins of light, the shimmer of corporeal interplay.


Peggy Gale



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