The Imagined Film: Narcisa Hirsch and Michael Snow in Dialogue

Approx. Duration: 1 hour 46 minutes

TIFF Cinematheque - Free Screen

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Narcisa Hirsch and Michael Snow join us for an onstage discussion following the screening of Snow's A Casing Shelved and Hirsch's Taller (Workshop), which Hirsch made in response to Snow's film — despite the fact that she had only ever heard about it.

Programmed by Federico Windhausen

Born in Germany in 1928 and resident in Argentina since her early childhood, Narcisa Hirsch is a pivotal figure in Latin American experimental cinema. Moving into filmmaking in the late sixties following her earlier work in painting, performances and happenings, Hirsch focuses on the body and corporeal experience in her work, and combines her musings on spiritual and existential questions with lyrical imagery derived largely from the interior spaces of her domestic life, the rural landscapes of Patagonia and the urban environments of Buenos Aires.

While her artistic biography has intersected with such art- and film-cultural milestones as the happenings at the di Tella Institute in Buenos Aires and the early years of Anthology Film Archives, Hirsch has resolutely sought to follow her own course, mostly avoiding strong institutional affiliations and seeking to engage with artists and thinkers on her own terms. Despite this strong-willed individualism, however, she still views filmmaking as a profoundly social and collaborative practice, having contributed extensively to the formation and development of Argentina's experimental film and video scene since her early collaborations with an informal, loosely knit collective, now referred to as El Grupo Goethe, that included such key filmmakers as Claudio Caldini, Marie Louise Alemann, Juan José Mugni and Horacio Vallereggio. At the Goethe Institut in Buenos Aires, they found a rare venue that was supportive enough of experimental cinema to allow them to screen new work even during the military dictatorship.

This special two-night retrospective begins with an onstage conversation between Hirsch and Michael Snow, whose work provided a unique point of connection with Hirsch's own practice in the 1970s. On the second night, Hirsch introduces and discusses a selection of her work spanning four decades, including a new 35mm transfer of the 16mm-shot Come Out.

Narcisa Hirsch is a guest of the Goethe Institut.


In the mid-seventies, Narcisa Hirsch heard about Michael Snow's 1970 film A Casing Shelved, which combines a projection of a 35mm slide showing a bookcase in Snow's studio with a tape-recorded narration by the artist that discusses various objects within the image. Not only addressing viewers directly, Snow's narration attempts to direct our eyes toward specific portions of the image, as if spectatorial vision could function in a manner analogous to camera vision.

Notwithstanding her inability to see Snow's film, Hirsch made Taller (Workshop), a 16mm film inspired by the little she knew about A Casing Shelved. Though Hirsch's film, like its unseen model, is shot in the artist's studio and dominated by her voice, it departs in thought-provoking ways from Snow's work. At this screening, Hirsch and Snow will see each other's films for the first time and have a conversation about this singular case of a belated, cross-hemispheric dialogue between two experimental filmmakers.

A Casing Shelved (dir. Michael Snow \ Canada 1970 \ 45 min. \ 35mm slide and audio tape)

Taller (Workshop) (dir. Narcisa Hirsch \ Argentina 1975 \ 11 min. \ 16mm)

This programme is rated PG.

Guest Biographies

    • Federico Windhausen
    • Federico Windhausen is a film scholar whose research areas include Latin American cinema and experimental practices in film, video and new media. He is a professor at the California College of the Arts, where he teaches courses on video art, theories of visual media, and experimental film. His recent writing can be found in Millennium Film Journal and the Fundació Joan Miró's Insomnia catalogue. He is currently editing an all-interview issue of the San Francisco Cinematheque's journal Cinematograph, which will include an interview with Narcisa Hirsch.
    • Narcisa Hirsch
    • Born in Germany in 1928 and a resident in Argentina since her early childhood, Narcisa Hirsch has been a pivotal figure in Latin American experimental cinema since the sixties. She began her career as a painter and performance artist before experimenting with 16mm and Super 8 film, collaborating early on with an informal, loosely knit collective that included such key filmmakers as Claudio Caldini, Marie Louise Alemann, Juan José Mugni and Horacio Vallereggio. Since the late sixties, she has created an enormous body of work largely inspired by her domestic life, the rural landscapes of Patagonia and the urban environments of Buenos Aires. Some of her films include Come Out (71); Taller (71); Testamento y Vida Interior (76); Ama-Zona (83); La Pasión (92); Rumi (99); El Aleph (2005); El Mito de Narciso (10). Apart from purely experimental films, she has also created acclaimed installations such as El silencio (00) and Predicando en el Desierto (10) with the collaboration of Enrique Banfi, among others.

    • Michael Snow
    • Michael Snow is Toronto-based artist who works in many media: drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, holography, sound installation, film and video. His films have been widely presented at festivals in North America, Asia and Europe, and his work is in many major private and public collections worldwide. Solo exhibitions of Snow’s visual art have been presented at museums and galleries in Amsterdam, Atlanta, Berlin, Bonn, Boston, Brussels, Istanbul, Kassel, Lima, Los Angeles, Lucerne, Lyons, Minneapolis, Montreux, Munich, New York, Ottawa, Paris, Pittsburgh, Quebec City, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Vienna and elsewhere. He has executed several public sculpture commissions in Toronto, notably Flight Stop at Eaton Centre, The Audience at Rogers Centre, and The Windows Suite at the Pantages Hotel and Condominium complex. Snow's numerous awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1972), Order of Canada (Officer, 1982; Companion, 2007), and the first Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000) for cinema. Snow was made a Chevalier de l’ordre des arts et des lettres, France, in 1995, and received an honorary doctorate in 2004 from the Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne. He is represented by Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, àngels barcelona, Martine Aboucaya in Paris, and Galerie Klosterfelde in Berlin.