Wavelength. 1967. USA/Canada. Directed by Michael Snow. With Hollis Frampton, Naoto Nakagawa, Roswell Rudd, Amy Taubin, Joyce Wieland. 16mm. 45 min.
Michael Snow returns to MoMA to present his 1967 avant-garde masterwork Wavelength, in a special evening occasioned by the publication of Michael Snow: October Files (MIT Press). Snow’s “diary of a room” was seminal in its articulation of expansive, self-reflexive possibilities for underground cinema. At its showing in Cineprobe’s inaugural season, Snow reflected that “the kinds of belief you can have in the medium” was the very subject of the film. Indeed, the polymathic artist poses questions concerning nothing less than the relationship between image (a 45-minute fixed zoom) and sound (a sine wave that exists in parallel to the visuals rather than representing them); ideas of permanence and ephemerality, as evoked through a former industrial loft on Canal Street; and the relationship between abstraction and narrative. Annette Michelson, who edited the new anthology with Kenneth White before her passing, remarked in 1971 that the camera zoom harkens to the storytelling of comedies, Westerns, and gangster films; through a sequence of “human events” ranging from a furniture move to a sudden death, Wavelength was a sea change—an “eye-opener” of the magnitude of Stan Brakhage’s hand-manipulated abstractions and Andy Warhol’s distancing camera gaze. This screening, at which Michael Snow: October Files will be available for sale, will be followed by a conversation with Snow.