Michael Snow

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Michael Snow
Michael Snow.jpg
Michael Snow, 2007
Born (1928-12-10) December 10, 1928 (age 90)
Education Ontario College of Art
Known for installation art, filmmaker, painter
Notable work
Wavelength (1967)
<----> (1969)
La Région Centrale (1971)
Flight Stop (1979)
*Corpus Callosum (2002)
Movement Structural film
Awards Officer, Order of Canada
Companion, Order of Canada
Chevalier d'ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France
Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts
Honorary Doctorate, Université de Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne
Honorary Doctorate, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi

Michael Snow, CC (born December 10, 1928) [1] is a Canadian artist working in a range of media including film, installation, sculpture, photography, and music. His best-known films are Wavelength (1967) and La Région Centrale (1971), with the former regarded as a milestone in avant-garde cinema.

Order of Canada order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

<i>Wavelength</i> (1967 film) 1967 film by Michael Snow

Wavelength is a 45 minute film by Canadian experimental filmmaker and artist Michael Snow, known for building his reputation upon publicity of the film. Considered a landmark of avant-garde cinema, it was filmed over one week in December 1966 and edited in 1967, and is an example of what film theorist P. Adams Sitney describes as "structural film", calling Snow "the dean of structural filmmakers."

La Région Centrale is a 1971 experimental Canadian film directed by Michael Snow. The film is 180 minutes long and shot over a period of 24 hours using a robotic arm, and consists entirely of preprogrammed movements.



Michael Snow was born in Toronto and studied at Upper Canada College and the Ontario College of Art. He had his first solo exhibition in 1957. In the early 1960s Snow moved to New York with his wife, artist Joyce Wieland, where they remained for nearly a decade. For Snow this move resulted in a proliferation of creative ideas and connections and his work increasingly gained recognition. He returned to Canada in the early 1970s "an established figure, multiply defined as a visual artist, a filmmaker, and a musician." [2]

Toronto Provincial capital city in Ontario, Canada

Toronto is the provincial capital of Ontario and the most populous city in Canada, with a population of 2,731,571 in 2016. Current to 2016, the Toronto census metropolitan area (CMA), of which the majority is within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), held a population of 5,928,040, making it Canada's most populous CMA. Toronto is the anchor of an urban agglomeration, known as the Golden Horseshoe in Southern Ontario, located on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario. A global city, Toronto is a centre of business, finance, arts, and culture, and is recognized as one of the most multicultural and cosmopolitan cities in the world.

Upper Canada College day and boarding IB World School for boys

Upper Canada College (UCC), located in Toronto, Ontario, is a private school for boys between Senior Kindergarten and Grade Twelve, operating under the International Baccalaureate program. The secondary school segment is divided into ten houses; eight are for day students and the remaining two are for boarding students. Aside from the main structure, with its dominant clock tower, the Toronto campus has a number of sports facilities, staff and faculty residences, and buildings for other purposes. UCC also owns and operates a campus in Norval, Ontario, for outdoor education.

Joyce Wieland Canadian film director

Joyce Wieland, OC was a Canadian experimental filmmaker and mixed media artist.

His work has appeared at exhibitions across Europe, North America and South America. Snows' works were included in the shows marking the reopening of both the Centre Pompidou in Paris in 2000 and the MoMA in New York in 2005. In March 2006, his works were included in the Whitney Biennial.

Centre Georges Pompidou contemporary art museum in Paris, France

Centre Georges Pompidou, commonly shortened to Centre Pompidou and also known as the Pompidou Centre in English, is a complex building in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris, near Les Halles, rue Montorgueil, and the Marais. It was designed in the style of high-tech architecture by the architectural team of Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, along with Gianfranco Franchini.

Museum of Modern Art Art museum in New York, N.Y.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is an art museum located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues.

Whitney Biennial art biennial

The Whitney Biennial is a biennale exhibition of contemporary American art, typically by young and lesser known artists, on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, United States. The event began as an annual exhibition in 1932, the first biennial was in 1973. The Whitney show is generally regarded as one of the leading shows in the art world, often setting or leading trends in contemporary art. It helped bring artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollock and Jeff Koons to prominence.



Snow is considered one of the most influential experimental filmmakers. Annette Michelson, in writing about Snow, his 1967 film Wavelength, and his films in general, speaks of the impact of Snow's films, placing viewers in a "position to more fully understand the particular impact of Snow's filmic work from 1967 on, to discern the reasons for the large consensus given" to Wavelength when it was honoured with the Grand Prize at the 1967 Experimental Film Festival EXPRMNTL 4 in Knokke, Belgium, and that "Wavelength, [appears] as a celebration of the 'apparatus' and a confirmation of the status of the subject, and it is in those terms that we may begin to comprehend the profound effect it had upon the broadest spectrum of viewers...." [3] Wavelength has been the subject of numerous retrospectives internationally. Film scholar Scott MacDonald says of Snow that "[f]ew filmmakers have had as large an impact on the recent avant-garde film scene as Canadian Michael Snow, whose Wavelength is probably the most frequently discussed 'structural' film." [4]

Experimental film, experimental cinema or avant-garde cinema is a mode of filmmaking that rigorously re-evaluates cinematic conventions and explores non-narrative forms and alternatives to traditional narratives or methods of working. Many experimental films, particularly early ones, relate to arts in other disciplines: painting, dance, literature and poetry, or arise from research and development of new technical resources.

Knokke section of Knokke-Heist, Belgium

Knokke is a town in the municipality of Knokke-Heist, which is located in the province of West Flanders in Flanders, Belgium. The town itself has 15,708 inhabitants (2007), while the municipality of Knokke-Heist has 33,818 inhabitants (2009).

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 square kilometres (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Wavelength has been designated and preserved as a masterwork by the Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada [5] and was named #85 in the 2001 Village Voice critics' list of the 100 Best Films of the 20th Century . [6]

The Audio-Visual Preservation Trust of Canada was a charitable non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the preservation of Canada's audio-visual heritage, and to facilitating access to regional and national collections through partnerships with members of Canada's audio-visual community. In 2008, the Conservative government eliminated $300,000 in funding for the Trust, leading to the cancellation of the program.

Snow's films have premiered in film festivals worldwide and five of his films have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). In 2000, TIFF commissioned Snow, along with Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg, to make a series of short films collectively titled Preludes, for the 25th Anniversary of the festival.

Toronto International Film Festival annual film festival held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the largest publicly attended film festivals in the world, attracting over 480,000 people annually. Since its founding in 1976, TIFF has grown to become a permanent destination for film culture operating out of the TIFF Bell Lightbox, located in downtown Toronto.

Atom Egoyan Canadian-Armenian film director, screenwriter, film producer and actor

Atom Egoyan, is an Armenian-Canadian stage and film director, writer, and producer. Egoyan made his career breakthrough with Exotica (1994), a film set primarily in and around the fictional Exotica strip club. Egoyan's most critically acclaimed film is the drama The Sweet Hereafter (1997), for which he received two Academy Award nominations, and his biggest commercial success is the erotic thriller Chloe (2009).

David Cronenberg Canadian film director, screenwriter and actor

David Paul Cronenberg is a Canadian filmmaker, writer, and actor. He is one of the principal originators of what is commonly known as the body horror genre, with his films exploring visceral bodily transformation, infection, technology, and the intertwining of the psychological with the physical. In the first third of his career, he explored these themes mostly through horror and science fiction films such as Scanners (1981) and Videodrome (1983), although his work has since expanded beyond these genres.

In his Village Voice review of Snow's 2002 film *Corpus Callosum , J. Hoberman writes that Snow's films are "[r]igorously predicated on irreducible cinematic facts [and] Snow's structuralist epics— Wavelength and La Région Centrale —[announce] the imminent passing of the film era. Rich with new possibilities, *Corpus Callosum heralds the advent of the next. Whatever it is, it cannot be too highly praised." *Corpus Calossum was screened at the Toronto, Berlin, Rotterdam, and the Los Angeles film festivals amongst others. In January 2003, Snow won the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, Douglas Edwards Experimental/Independent Film/Video Award for *Corpus Callosum. [7]


Originally a professional jazz musician, Snow has a long-standing interest in improvised music, as indicated by the soundtrack to his film New York Eye and Ear Control. As a pianist, he has performed solo and with other musicians in North America, Europe and Japan. Snow performs regularly in Canada and internationally, often with the improvisational music ensemble CCMC and has released more than a half dozen albums since the mid-1970s. [8] [9] In 1987, Snow issued The Last LP (Art Metropole), which purported to be a documentary recording of the dying gasps of ethnic musical cultures from around the globe including Tibet, Syria, India, China, Brazil, Finland and elsewhere, with more thousands of words of pseudo-scholarly supplementary notes, but was, in fact, a series of multi-tracked recordings of Snow himself, who gave the joke away only in a single column of text in the disc's gatefold jacket, printed backwards and readable in a mirror. [10] One track, purported to be a document of a coming-of-age ritual from Niger, is a pastiche of Whitney Houston's song "How Will I Know." [11] [12]

Snow, with Richard Serra, James Tenney and Bruce Nauman, performed Steve Reich's Pendulum Music on May 27, 1969 at the Whitney Museum of American Art. [13] [14]

Other media

Interior of the Eaton Centre showing one of Michael Snow's best known sculptures Flightstop, which depict Canada geese in flight. TorontoEatonCentre.jpg
Interior of the Eaton Centre showing one of Michael Snow's best known sculptures Flightstop, which depict Canada geese in flight.

Before Snow moved to New York in 1961, he began a long-term project that for six years would be his trademark: the Walking Woman. Martha Langford in Michael Snow: Life & Work describes this work as employing a single form that offered an infinite number of creative possibilities, the figure itself perceived variably as "a positive (a presence to be looked at) and a negative (an absence to be looked through)." [15]

Langford identifies duality as a guiding principle in Snow’s work. By combining materials and methods Snow creates hybrid objects that often defy classification. [16] A work which exemplifies Snow's testing of stylistic boundaries is his 1979 installation Flight Stop (also titled Flightstop), a site-specific work in Toronto's Eaton Centre mall, which looks like a sculptural representation of sixty geese, but is in fact an intricate combination of fibreglass forms and photographs of a single goose. [17]

In 1982, Snow sued the corporate owner of the Toronto Eaton Centre for violating his moral rights by altering Flight Stop. In the landmark case Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd, the Ontario High Court of Justice affirmed the artist's right to the integrity of their work. The operator of the Toronto Eaton Centre was found liable for violating Michael Snow's moral rights by putting Christmas bows on the work. [18] [19]

Snow's works have been in Canadian pavilion at world fairs since his Walking Women sculpture was exhibited at Expo 67 in Montréal. His recent bookwork BIOGRAPHIE of the Walking Woman / de la femme qui marche 1961-1967 (2004) was published in Brussels by La Lettre vole. It consists of images of the public appearances of his globally famous icon.

Anarchive2: Digital Snow describes Michael Snow as "one of the most significant artists in contemporary art and cinema of the past 50 years." This 2002 DVD was initiated by Paris’ Centre Pompidou and was produced with the support of la foundation Daniel Langlois, Université de Paris, Heritage Canada, the Canada Council, Téléfilm Canada and Montreal’s Époxy. It is an encyclopedia of Snow's works across media, browsed in a manner inimitably and artfully created by Snow. Its 4,685 entries include film clips, sculpture, photographs, audio and musical clips, and interviews.

Retrospectives and honours

In the background you can see multiple stadium sculptures on the eastern side of Skydome Rogers Centre. Suspension bridge over railway tracks SkyDomeRogersCentre.JPG
In the background you can see multiple stadium sculptures on the eastern side of Skydome Rogers Centre.
Michael Snow's sculpture 'Red, Orange and Green' (1992) at Rogers Building (Canada) Tree at Rogers.jpg
Michael Snow's sculpture 'Red, Orange and Green' (1992) at Rogers Building (Canada)

In 1993, The Michael Snow Project, lasting several months, was a multivenue retrospective of Snow’s works in Toronto exhibited at several public venues and at the Art Gallery of Ontario and The Power Plant. Concurrently his works were the subjects of four books published by Alfred A. Knopf Canada.

In 1981, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was promoted to Companion in 2007 "for his contributions to international visual arts as one of Canada’s greatest multidisciplinary contemporary artists". [20] He received the first Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000) for cinema.

In 2004, the Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne awarded him an honorary doctorate. The last artist so awarded was Pablo Picasso. In 2006, Lima's Museum of Art (MALI) held a selective retrospective exhibition as well as a screening of his films in Peru, as part of the Vide/Art/Electronic Festival.

Honorary degrees

Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne (2004), Emily Carr Institute, Vancouver (2004) Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax (1990), University of Toronto (1999), University of Victoria (1997), Brock University (1975).

Academic appointments

Other awards

Major installations


The Audience sculpture adorning the facade on the northwest corner of Rogers Centre stadium in Toronto. This photo only shows half of the art installation. The other set is located above the north east corner of the building, and is of similar size and configuration. Rogers Centre 02.JPG
The Audience sculpture adorning the facade on the northwest corner of Rogers Centre stadium in Toronto. This photo only shows half of the art installation. The other set is located above the north east corner of the building, and is of similar size and configuration.

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<i>Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd</i>

Snow v Eaton Centre Ltd is a leading Canadian decision on moral rights. The Ontario High Court of Justice affirmed the artist's right to integrity of their work. The operator of the Toronto Eaton Centre was found liable for violating Michael Snow's moral rights by putting Christmas bows on his work Flight Stop.

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<i>Flight Stop</i>

Flight Stop, also titled Flightstop, is a 1979 site-specific art work by Canadian artist Michael Snow. Located in the Toronto Eaton Centre in Downtown Toronto, the work hangs from the ceiling and appears to depict sixty Canada geese in flight. Each individual goose is made of Styrofoam covered in fibreglass and covered in a sheath made from photographs taken from a single goose. The flock is frozen in mid-flight, "flight stop" being a pun on the nature of still photography. When conceived in 1977, the work was titled Flight Stop but has frequently also been titled Flightstop. The work remains an iconic public art piece in Toronto and in many ways stands as a visual identity for the mall.

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  1. Martha,, Langford,. Michael Snow : life & work. Toronto, ON. ISBN   9781487100049. OCLC   870916868.
  2. Langford, Martha (2014). Michael Snow: Life and Work (PDF). Art Canada Institute. p. 6.
  3. Michelson, "About Snow" October Vol. 8 (Spring, 1979): 118.
  4. Scott MacDonald, "So Is This by Michael Snow" Film Quarterly Vol. 39, No. 1 (Autumn, 1985): 34.
  5. "Academia Vita Trust". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27.
  6. "100 Best Films - Village Voice". Archived from the original on 2014-03-31.
  7. "28th Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. 2002. Archived from the original on August 4, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2018. Tied with Kenneth Anger "for his body of work".
  8. BURNETT, DAVID. "Michael Snow". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  9. Martha, Langford (2014). Michael Snow: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. ISBN   9781487100049.
  10. "Recto/Verso: Michael Snow on the page and on the record". mag.magentafoundation.org. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  11. "Michael Snow – a Retrospective – The Ontarion". www.theontarion.com. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  12. "An afternoon with Michael Snow and Jesse Stewart @ Record Centre". Bytown Sound. 2017-11-30. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  13. "MoMA.org". www.moma.org. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
  14. Remus, Uncle. "Steve Reich interview- Pendulum Music". www.furious.com. Retrieved 2018-07-10.
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  16. Langford, Martha (2014). Michael Snow: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. ISBN   9781487100049.
  17. Langford, Martha (2014). Michael Snow: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. ISBN   9781487100049.
  18. Martha, Langford (2014). Michael Snow: Life & Work. Art Canada Institute. ISBN   9781487100049.
  19. (1982), 70 CPR (2d) 105.
  20. "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". Governor General of Canada. Archived from the original on 2008-01-01.
  21. "Michael Snow wins $40K Iskowitz Prize". CBC News. June 6, 2011. Retrieved June 6, 2011.
  22. "Members since 1880". Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Archived from the original on 26 May 2011. Retrieved 11 September 2013.