Immediate Delivery 1998
Michael Snow, Immediate Delivery, 1998
Back-lit transparency, 116.1 x 191 x 16.8 cm
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto
Transparency is a key theme in Michael Snow’s production, as well as the actual medium for a number of works, beginning in the late 1960s. In Sink, 1970, Snow not only plays with repetition, or re-presentation, but he does so in a series of transparencies: an accumulation of brushes and containers around a stained painter’s sink is recorded under different colours and intensities of light. In Recombinant, 1992, a tray of 35mm slides is projected on a bas-relief panel that contains and alters the radiant image-forms. Both these gallery works highlight mechanism by including carousel projectors as part of the piece. Transparencies have also been featured in Snow’s theatrical presentations, or auditorium works, including Slidelength, 1969–71, whose subjects are the colours of light and shadow-casting forms.
A Casing Shelved, 1970, is an image-sound work for theatrical projection. It features a single vertical image of a shelving unit in an artist’s studio whose contents the artist (Snow) is heard to carefully describe and explain. Finally, Imposition, 1976, is a large composite image featuring two figures, a man and a woman, seated on a couch. The picture has been taken in landscape, or couch, orientation, but the work is hung as a portrait—that is, vertically. As doubly depicted, the man and woman are both clothed and nude, and they cock their heads to the right to look at a picture within the picture that may be of them, while the spectator does the same to “turn the work” lengthwise.
As a back-lit transparency, Immediate Delivery also makes a subject of transparency: the nature of the material is emphasized in the way Snow uses it. He explains the work as “a transparent photograph of a construction made with transparencies, metal and various objects which occupied a space 7 m x 5 m x 5 m in my studio, all of which press towards, or onto, the picture plane.” The transparencies that he mentions are present as representations and as “real coloured plastic gels applied to the surface of the photograph.” They are tangible references to the process: a monumental construction, erected as a set in Snow’s studio and struck when the picturing was done. This process ties Immediate Delivery to his earliest works in collage and assemblage, while extending a body of work undertaken in the 1980s, when he made a number of photographic works about scale based on objects handmade from plaster, clay, or Plasticine. His aim was to make the entire contents of the photographic image.