New York Eye and Ear Control

Canadian artist Michael Snow is better known for Wavelength (1967), but this rarely screened 1964 film is playful and wonderfully inventive in its exploration of issues that have long preoccupied him. The camera moves across landscapes and cityscapes, often discovering enigmatic life-size silhouettes of a woman standing in a room or among buildings or trees. Snow had already presented these “walking women” in a variety of media, but near the end of the film, a silhouette reveals a live woman behind it. The resulting tension between abstraction and representation characterizes much of Snow’s art, but when the live woman later appears in bed with a jazz musician who’s apparently played on the sound track, Snow seems to stretch the film’s play on illusion and reality to the breaking point, mixing abstraction, self-reference, and a palpable interracial eroticism. The superbly minimal Seated Figures (1988), which completes the program, is more precisely controlled, restricting its space to tiny fragments of landscape seen from a moving vehicle, but New York Eye and Ear Control has a more sprawling if imperfectly realized ambition–to bridge the gap between art making and the larger world–that makes it genuinely compelling. School of the Art Institute, 112 S. Michigan, room 1311, Tuesday, April 20, 4:30, 312-345-3588.

–Fred Camper