Arthur Jafa on Michael Snow’s Wavelength, 1967

Michael Snow, Wavelength, 1967, 16 mm, color, sound, 45 minutes. Amy Taubin.

IN MANY WAYS, even before I knew exactly what I was looking at, I took Wavelength as a kind of long goodbye, an extended adieu to Western vanishing-point perspective. Or, at the very least, a goodbye to the obvious inferences, i.e., the eye-I dyad at the very center of Western classical ideas of (split/bifurcated/troubled) consciousness, mind/body, man/nature, foreground/background, and all its decidedly phallic impulses. Penetrating space, penetrating gaze as apex being. And none of the above even remotely meant as a critique. Michael Snow being, idea-of-the-north/star-like, a true Canadian, down to his spooky insistence on there being a point (neither/nor wave particle).

Snow was surfing the event horizon, consciousness being the board he/we rode in on. An entangled, seemingly entropic, Whitmanesque songing of the body electric. A fingering which (like Kubrick’s 2001, that other deep-space probe), having traversed the distance between here and there, arrives at a full stop beyond which progress, rational (Western) comprehension, fails.

I haven’t seen Wavelength in almost forty years. Still, I remember the exact context and terms under which it was viewed (it was the same night as my second viewing of Anger’s Scorpio Rising, my first of Kubelka’s Arnulf Rainer) and its indelible impact on my sense of what a film could be.

Its move toward stasis (a paradox), still life as moving image. Not nature morte but nature submerged, sublime, sublimated beneath oceanic dread tomb/womb, transatlantic, Drexciyan breaks of/with consciousness, hence my AGHDRA. Down here, calmly, yet actively entombed with all these dead Africans, and Bin Laden too.

Wavelength describes a heat death as cool, as inadvertently engendered (immaculate, like Miles), as any totally deracinated (black) being could possibly, in fact inevitably, be. A bar as hard as I U me.

Arthur Jafa is an artist based in Los Angeles.

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