The Photographic Work "Venetian Blind" by Artist Michael Snow Between Self-Portrait, Selfie and Concept Art
Master’s thesis by Susan Funk
On April 2, 2017, the winner of the Golden Lion, Anne Imhof, published a photo of herself in Venice on her Instagram account: she is sitting with legs wide and arms crossed at the rear end of a U-shaped leather seating area in the lower deck of a boat, dressed completely in black, a Longchamp handbag at her feet and a dark cap with white lettering hiding half of her face. It is mirrored by the shiny black ceiling and the plastic stickers on the window panes reveal: “Turismo.” With the time of the publication of the picture, the knowledge of the Venice Biennale and that this woman is an artist, her shot can be understood immediately as a clear and broad hint. The title of her self-portrayal #venice #transport @juicyfilet conceals the fact that she is currently in the middle of the exhibition structure of her solo exhibition in the German Pavilion and is considered a favorite for the Golden Lion.
The photographic work Venetian Blind was created almost fifty years earlier, in 1970. On twenty-four polaroid photos, the Canadian conceptual artist Michael Snow can be seen photographing himself head-on, closing his eyes and furiously shaking his head. Due to the movement of the head, it appears blurred in the picture. The background of the picture is clearly visible: Venetian monumental architecture. If you put together the evidence (artist, Venice), the photographs can also be located in the events around the Venice Biennale. They also announce a success story, because the photos were taken the morning after the artist opened his solo exhibition in the Canadian Pavilion - the high point of his career so far.
From today's perspective, the formally arranged photographs (except for the closed eyes and the blurring of the face) represent a panorama selfie par excellance. They appear familiar and current, although they are already half a century old. Snow himself said several times that the photographs were not self-portraits. Art criticism of the work sees it differently - there are repeated self-portrait attributions and attempts to read the work as an autobiographical statement.
This contradiction of interpretation and self-expression allows the following interpretations with regard to Venetian Blind: First, that it is part of a certain staging strategy and thus functions in terms of the concept of the classic self-portrait; Secondly, with regards to Imhof's self-portrayal, it moves in the direction of an artistic selfie, since it is mainly intended to communicate (success); Or thirdly, that Venetian Blind can actually be understood as a conceptual representation-critical work as described by the artist.
The master’s thesis “Snow in Venice. The Photographic Work Venetian Blind by Artist Michael Snow Between Self-Portrait, Selfie and Concept Art” therefore poses the question, how nevertheless effective these criteria are despite the declared retreat from subjectivity and authorship in conceptual art, and how are they articulated.