Longtime readers of October hardly need reminding that artist Michael Snow, who passed away in January 2023 at the age of ninety-four, was of singular importance to our journal, and especially to one of our founding editors, Annette Michelson. Michelson's first article devoted exclusively to a North American filmmaker “of the independent persuasion” was about Snow and especially his film Wavelength (1967), and this film in many ways exemplified the advanced art of the late 1960s and ‘70s that October was founded, in part, to defend and champion: art that was perceived as analytic rather than expressive; that expanded its medium even while hyperbolizing its defining conventions; that foregrounded temporality and duration; and that prompted cognitive reflection on the viewer's part about their phenomenological experience of the work and its possible sociopolitical ramifications.1 (In retrospect, the film is also notable for its humor, which, while not addressed in much depth at the time, was partly informed by the Duchampian legacy of puns and wordplay, often involving the titles of works, that also influenced October and its early canon of artists. Humor was to remain a major, but underappreciated, feature of Snow's work.)

Snow first appeared in October in issue No. 4 (Autumn 1977), with his “Notes for Rameau's Nephew,” about his film Rameau's Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen (1974), his contribution to the so-called New Talkie of the 1970s.2 The same issue contained an article by critic Amy Taubin, who had acted in Wavelength, about an exhibition of Snow's photographs at MoMA.3 Almost two years later, Michelson published in these pages her second major text on Snow, “About Snow,” in which she revisited Wavelength, but this time through the lens of a more politicized and psychoanalytically inflected version of phenomenology, which she took from French film theorist Jean-Louis Baudry.4 Now, according to Michelson, the film affirms the spectator as “transcendental subject” by offering a “gratifying confirmation of a threatened sovereignty” to audiences, something that is even more true, Michelson argued, of Snow's film La région centrale (1970).5 Snow would feature in many subsequent essays published in the journal, including in a cluster of texts devoted to his work in issue No. 114 in 2005, among which was an interview with Snow conducted by Michelson about his work in music.6 He was also the subject of an October Files (No. 24) co-edited by Michelson and Kenneth White.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.