Still Life in 8 Calls 1985

Michael Snow, Still Life in 8 Calls, 1985

Michael Snow, Still Life in 8 Calls, 1985

Installation: 8 rugs, wood table legs, 8 wood chairs, 8 transmission holograms in metal frames, white light illumination, approx. 1.52 m long; rugs: 259 x 182 cm; holograms: 71 x 61 cm

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

For the Québécois critic Gilles Rioux, Michael Snow’s holographic exhibition The Spectral Image, presented at Expo 86 in Vancouver, was the contemporary equivalent of the Pavillon du réalisme, mounted by Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) at the Universal Exhibition of 1855 in Paris. Snow conceived his artwork as a unified sculptural installation, in which he included photographs, three-dimensional objects, holograms, and a repurposed machine shop. Still Life in 8 Calls, a work combining real furniture and part-furniture with holographic still lifes, was part of this “realist” complex.


Snow made what the photographer and filmmaker saw as a natural transition to holography in the mid-1980s, producing individual works as well as monumental installations. The ghostliness of the holographic image intrigued him, as did its immediacy. In Still Life in 8 Calls the spectator is invited to contemplate an orderly everyday scene: a lamp, a rotary dial telephone, a cup and saucer, a spoon, a pencil, keys, and eyeglasses. As the visitor works down the line, this domestic banality is seriously disrupted. All other things (the real things) remaining equal, the elements in the holographic still life fly up into the air and ultimately self-destruct before the viewer’s eyes.


The traditional still life that becomes enchanted and unruly returns to Snow’s first film, a short animation titled A to Z, 1956, produced by moving and photographing cut-out elements on the animation stand. In A to Z the furniture began to make love. The mischief has continued in a video installation, Serve, Deserve, 2009, which chronicles the service of a restaurant meal. This fluid still life arrives after the usual restaurant wait, flows across the projection surface, and just as fluidly disappears. No tip is left at the end of this endless meal.

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