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Snow Tokyo Solo Piano Video: What I Learned From Michael Snow

For
the first five minutes I was completely unsure of what to expect.
Whispers from the audience grew loud and the screen went dark. Before
the technical difficulty, we saw a stage with a grand piano to the right
of the screen. The shot was tight and left little room for other
environmental cues. Like a gif, Snow appeared and then disappeared. The
room grew restless. You could hear chairs moving among the whispers and
the screen was a light shade of blue from the digital projector. The
whispers got louder and as the video finally reappeared the Toronto
audience clapped to the same beat as the Tokyo audience. We were
watching a video performance of a piano performance that Snow did in
Tokyo.



As the piece started, I recalled last spring when I saw Snow play at the
AGO’s restaurant FRANK. The beautiful reverberation of the grand piano
in the video, reminded me of the moment where I could actually feel his
passion for playing. Tonight, Snow with Mani Mazinani performed live
image modifications based on improvisation. There was this late 80s VHS
video aesthetic accompanied by low res graphic overlay that showed a
close up of Snow’s hands over top a smaller version of himself. The
colours would flicker from red, yellow, green, blue and purple and at
moments, send you into a visual trance where your eyes would blur
together, getting lost in the sound. The ambient sounds of the chairs
dragging across the floor in the restaurant above and that of a camera
shutter continually goes off, adding to this new experience. I think
about how this environment is completely different than the one in
Tokyo. As I get this close up view of his process I realize that he is
one with his piano, maintaining control over sound as his hand would
flip onto its side and seamlessly glide up and down the keys. Snow pulls
at the keys with no remorse but with such purpose and delicacy. The
piece ends with the perfect melody of stride piano, the audience from
Toronto claps on cue with Tokyo.



When it was over, I was torn with my emotions. So at the end I asked
him, why show us a video of your performance instead of actually
performing? The old man smiled with his eyes and said the performance in
Tokyo happened in November and that it takes too much out of him, he
could not have done it so soon again.



I was expecting him to tell me that he had this deep desire to comment
on the transformative nature of the screen or reference notions
regarding post-internet art. Instead Michael Snow made me realize that
artwork can exist for practical reasons. There doesn’t always have to be
some grand conceptual intent that is then explained through art speak
to produce a ‘successful’ piece of art.