"Hollis Frampton is known for the broad and restless intelligence he brought to the films he made, beginning in the early '60s, until his death in 1984. In addition to being an important experimental filmmaker, he was also an accomplished photographer and writer, and in the 1970s made significant contributions to the emerging field of computer science. He is considered one of the pioneers of what has come to be termed structuralism, an influential style of experimental filmmaking that uses the basic elements of cinematic language to create works that investigate film form at the expense of traditional narrative content. Along with Michael Snow and Stan
Brakhage, he is one of the major figures to emerge from the New York avant-garde film community of the 1960s.
Frampton's legendary intellect and equally legendary stubbornness announced themselves early. At the age of 15, he applied on his own volition to the prestigious Phillips Academy and was accepted on a full scholarship. Toward the end of his studies there, he was offered a scholarship to Harvard, only to have it rescinded after he failed to graduate by purposefully failing a required American history class. He spent several years at Western Reserve University in his native Ohio, studying a wide range of subjects but never attaining a degree. In 1958, he moved to New York with the intention of becoming a poet, but he soon abandoned that idea in favor of photography. His move to film in the early '60s coincided with the rise of avant-garde filmmaking in New York, centered around Jonas Mekas' Filmmakers Coop.
It was Frampton's philosophy that film, at its most fundamental, consists of a series of images that have to be arranged in some way. He saw this as a philosophical problem and believed that arranging images into a narrative was only one of many possible solutions. Instead, he often based the structures of his films on mathematical and scientific concepts. Prince Ruperts Drops takes its title from an object used in scientific instruction. The title and structure of Zorns Lemma come from "Zorn's lemma," a controversial mathematical concept. Frampton was astonishingly well-read, not only in mathematics and science, but in philosophy and literature as well. He was a great admirer of modernist writers Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, and his films reflect a breaking down of film language similar to the revolutionary ways Stein and Joyce reconfigured fictional prose. Like Joyce, Frampton moved from shorter works to much longer ones. After making mostly short films in the '60s, he spent several years on the seven-part Hapax Legomena (which includes his most famous film (nostalgia)), then spent the last decade of his life working on Magellan, a 36-hour film meant to be seen at specific intervals over the course of 371 days, which was left unfinished at the time of his death." - Tom Vick, All Movie Guide
"Hollis Frampton was a compelling raconteur: speech was another of his art forms. His insights and even his casual meanderings were immensely informative, as well as entertaining. Some of the tales (related repeatedly, as they were, from memory) perhaps lean toward the apocryphal; they are telling nonetheless." - Susan Krane, Hollis Frampton: Recollections/Recreations
"Polymath of enormous cultural range and erudition, Hollis Frampton pursued both the analytic principles of modernist reﬂexivity and the synthesis from them of the encyclopedic meta-text of the kind that haunted his masters, Ezra Pound and Flaubert." – David James, Allegories of Cinema
Hollis Frampton on Hollis Frampton:
"Hollis Frampton was born in Ohio, United States, on March 11, 1936, towards the end of the Machine Age. Educated (that is, programmed: taught table manners, the use of the semicolon, and so forth) in Ohio and Massachusetts. The process resulted in satisfaction for no one. Studied (sat around on the lawn at St. Elizabeths) with Ezra Pound, 1957-58. That study is far from concluded. Moved to New York in March, 1958, lived and worked there more than a decade. People I met there composed the faculty of a phantasmal 'graduate school'. Began to make still photographs at the end of 1958. Nothing much came of it. First fumblings with cinema began in the Fall of 1962; the first films I will publicly admit to making came in early 1966. Worked, for years, as a film laboratory technician. More recently, Hunter College and the Cooper Union have been hospitable. Moved to Eaton, New York in mid-1970, where I now live (a process enriched and presumably, prolonged, by the location) and work...
In the case of painting, I believe that one reason I stayed with still photography as long as I did was an attempt, fairly successful I think, to rid myself of the succubus of painting. Painting has for a long time been sitting on the back of everyone's neck like a crept into territories outside its own proper domain. I have seen, in the last year or so, films which I have come to realize are built largely around what I take to be painterly concerns and I feel that those films are very foreign to my feeling and my purpose. As for sculpture, I think a lot of my early convictions about sculpture, in a concrete sense, have affected my handling of film as a physical material. My experience of sculpture has had a lot to do with my relative willingness to take up film in hand as a physical material and work with it. Without it, I might have been tempted to more literary ways of using film, or more abstract ways of using film."
Stan Brakhage on Hollis Frampton & Photography:
"Hollis Frampton centers his consideration (always singularly) upon concept. It is a direction-of-endeavor that should have evolved supremely within the last hundred year's development of still photography. Something we might call snap cinch retarded this logical blessing -ie that photographic pictures have been taken (as an overwhelming assumption) for the purpose of prompting memory of fixing it rather than, even, as an emblematic representation of memory process. Still photography remains, as a field, crutch to thought-addendum. There are, of course, the exceptional stills we call Art; but these do almost certainly center their occasions upon a sensuosity which we might refer to as overtures to or overtones of concept. In short, the Art of still photography sits, for the most part, in a rather normal Romantic trap. The medium itself was almost perfectly designed to approximate the split-second instances of arrived at thought - Eureka! etc. etc.; but this designation in the hands of lazy humans was made way-station, an endless series of waiting-stations, along a line of wishful thinking. Perhaps it was the over-riding 19th century belief in Progress which did thus retard the assumptive values of the field of still photography. The artists did, as always, escape the medium and its box of limited expectations; but they did sacrifice some of snap's most immediate possibilities in their abounding tonal considerations and clims up gray scales, etc. Hollis Frampton was never inclined, in this fashion, to the open end of Romanticism. His temperament must always have demanded something more like a movable box. He was never surely temperamentally inclined to prop himself with pictures while waiting for a train-of-thought. Concept was certainly too huge a consideration for Hollis Frampton to think of it. Concept must always have been, for him, akin to instantaneous revelation of the conceivable, including the process of arriving at such an instant. Mathematics and poetry did surely fascinate him because the assumptive life of both these fields in the 20th century is that they be emblematic of concept (in the first place) and that at worst the be sign-posts directing one to the event of concept in both time and space. Action painting was a natural for his admiration because it primarily demonstrated frozen instants of momentum along a line of possibilities. The action painters did not often pretend to concept. Hollis had to exhaust the definite pretensions of still photography for himself."
Hollis Frampton Timeline
1936 - Born Hollis William Frampton Jr. on March 11 (to Nellie Cross Frampton and Hollis William Frampton) in Wooster, Ohio, USA:
"I was the first and only child of the marriage. At that time my father was working in a strip coal mine for a dollar and fifteen cents a day. It was one of the two bottom years of the depression. It was also one of the two times in the history of the U.S. when the birth rate was at the absolute lowest. Thirty years later it would make it far easier for me to get a decent job because there are far fewer of me than there are of you so that we're more in demand and, needless to say, the supply being less, the price is higher." - HF
Raised in large part in the country by his maternal grandparents, primarily his grandmother Fanny Elizabeth Catlett Cross ("my Irish grandmother with the style of a drunken sailor." - HF) [to whom the film Gloria! is a tribute], who taught him to read at the age of three with the aid of an old typewriter. As a child, rarely spoke and was by his own account, "borderline autistic." Read voraciously:
"I had established that I could read and that I was careful and responsible and had got an adult library card when I was six from the local small town library where each Saturday I took my American Flyer wagon and loaded it with books and took it home. The librarian must have thought it was fairly amusing and anyway she was cordial. While it (the library) was small, it was open stack... I got hooked off onto hard science at a fairly early age. So that by the time I was nine and they said that they had dropped an atom bomb I had a smattering of what that meant, at least in terms of its physics and technology." - HF
1943 - With maternal grandfather, John Cross (an amateur painter), makes primitive movie out of six-foot belt collaged with images from Sears, Roebuck Company and farm equipment catalogues, and driven by handcranked phonograph motor.
1945 - Given Brownie box camera:
"I was the victim of the doting uncle syndrome. The doting uncle gives you, (as) you come downstairs on the Christmas morning of your ninth year, this big, yellow box. It has the little camera in it and a couple rolls of film, MQ developer and hypo and a little tank, etc... Really. So that was it. And I really liked it a lot." - HF
Moved to west side of Cleveland with parents. Still speaks only infrequently: tested at age nine years eleven months and found to have mental age of eighteen years six months. Removed from special education classes and enrolled in classes for gifted children, Wilbur Wright Junior High School. Studies French. Volunteers at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Receives scholarship to classes at Cleveland Museum of Art; studies predominantly life drawing for six semesters.
1951-54 - Applies entirely on his own accord to Philips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts; accepted on full scholarship. Classmates included painter Frank Stella ('54), composers David Behrman ('54) and Frederic Rzewski ('54), and sculptor Carl Andre ('53), who was his roommate the first year. Active in photography club. Writes poetry. Interest in art is fostered by painting teacher Patrick Morgan and his wife Maud, both of whom studied with Hans Hofmann in Munich. Paints. Studies German, Latin, then Greek. Introduced by teacher and friend Dudley Fitts to works of Rimbaud, Flaubert, Mallarmé, Joyce, and Pound. Sees exhibitions of works by action painters and Hans Hofmann at the Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips Academy. Often goes to New York by train to visit galleries:
"Maud Morgan had massive contacts in New York and really did know what was going on, and came and went to that city every two weeks or something like that. She was of course by the mid-early fifties ('52, '53 and '51 even) bringing back tales of extremely shaggy goings-on on 10th Street. I made my own first time stop overs in New York at that time... Seeing Jackson Pollack operating in the flesh was a considerable experience even as far as attitude, not only for an extremely hostile and wickedly smart-ass fifteen-year-old of any persuasion, but for a fifteen-year-old who the year before on his fourteenth birthday had been six feet tall and weighed 106 lbs. (That was no fun, believe me.) Of course the action painters, whatever their other attributes might have been, were uniformly not your image of an artist at all - not seemingly very intellectual (at least to use that term crudely) and rather ill-tempered and truculent and extremely stubborn, all of which reinforced some of my worst tendencies." - HF
1954-56 - Attends Western Reserve University in Cleveland:
"I allowed myself to be admitted on the condition, which indeed I have in writing, that I not be required to take any required courses if I felt them irrelevant. They agreed to that - I don't know why." - HF
Studies primarily Latin and Greek, also German, French, Russian, Sanskrit, Chinese, mathematics. Briefly has radio program at Oberlin College. Works for Republic Steel, then Jones and Laughlin Steel Company (in the open hearth). Considers himself a poet "... tentatively". Studies at the Institute of Design, Chicago, in the summers of 1955 and 1956, and "sneaks" into lectures in classical Chinese at the University of Chicago. Becomes interested in literary generation of the 1880s. Begins correspondence with Ezra Pound in 1956.
"After three and a half years I was summoned by the dean who once more asked me if I intended to take a degree. By that time I already had 135 hours of credits and I said that I more or less figured that I would, or something like that. He said in that case I have to tell you that you still have unfulfilled requirements in speech, western civilization, and music appreciation. To which I replied: I already know how to talk, I already know who Napoleon was and I already like music. For that reason I hold no bachelor's degree. I was very sick of school." - HF
1957 - Travels by car to Seattle, down the coast and to Mexico over the course of about six months. In fall, moves to Washington, D.C., where he visits Ezra Pound, then confined to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Congressional Heights:
"So I went to Washington, sat in the Library of Congress, sat around St. Elizabeth's, earned a living by being an electrician in Washington's only live burlesque theatre - a theatre in the round by the bay, abandoned by a Shakespeare Company that couldn't make it - right across from the Carnegie Library and two blocks from the Greyhound Station... I visited Pound nearly every day during this time, while he was finishing that part of his Cantos called Section Rock Drill (85-95), commencing work on Thrones - and had undertaken, for the benefit of his visitors, to read aloud and to annotate, orally, the entirety of the epic poem. Thus I became privy to a most meaningful exposition of the poetic process by an authentic member of the 'generation of the 80s'. At the same time, I came to understand that I was not a poet." - HF
Completes the translation into English of the seven volume Erlebte Erdteile (Frankfurt-am-Main, West Germany: Societatsdruckerei, Abt. Buchverlag, 1925-1929) by German anthropologist Leo Frobenius, a project suggested by Pound (unpublished).
1958 - Renews correspondence with Andre, Stella and Rzewski (all now in New York). With Pound's departure imminent, leaves for New York in March.
"Loading my possessions level with the three seats and into the trunk of my genuine 1950 Studebaker complete with torpedo nose I hurtled northward, negotiate the Pulaski Skyway, passed through the Lincoln tunnel, and arrived in Manhattan at 5:20 am on the sixth of March, 1958, five days before my twenty-second birthday, turned north into the odour of chicken soup and went up 11th Avenue until I petered out and found my way to Broadway and 113th Street where Carl Andre was staying in a rooming house around the corner from the West End Bar in the Columbia Hotel run by two old Swedish ladies who feared God, strangers and Puerto Ricans and had cause to have painted on the south side of their hotel an enormous sign that said 'The Wages of Sin is Death'. The Big Apple..." - HF
Works briefly as a framer at the Renaissance Print Shop. Moves to fourth floor walkup apartment at 219 Mulberry Street, initially shared with Andre and Stella, then with Andre only.
"Painting in particular, and the plastic arts at large, were swinging very very high. My peers were mostly interested in that. The people I met were young painters and young sculptors who naturally wanted to drink in the same bars where Kline and de Kooning had been and so forth and so on had, and did and so spent endless evenings nursing one forty cent bottle of Ballantine beer in the Cedar Street Bar...[sic]. I finally decided that while painting was something I respected, and it was very nice that other people did it, there were things that I didn't like about doing it. It seemed to be a kind of performance first of all, indeed it certainly was at that time. It seemed to have a lot to do with first refining and then expressing (or perhaps vice versa) your personality. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was express my personality. It is still the last thing. It's almost inevitable that one will in any case, but above all I couldn't entertain the idea of seriously doing that for a long time. For awhile I liked the results; I did not like the activity. I finally didn't enjoy smearing goo on flat surfaces: it was not enchanting." - HF
Begins shooting The Secret World of Frank Stella, 1958-1962. Buys Nikon for Christmas.
1959 - In January, begins to photograph Andre's work. Works variously as assistant in commercial photo studies, an electrician, and as freelance photographer of painting and sculpture for New York galleries.
"I didn't want to announce or to give out as something that I had done, something that showed the direct signature, the imprint of my having without mediation manipulated it. I liked to do things with machines so I took up still photography, which seemed to offer that advantage, that of mediation, that of signaturelessness, of a a certain kind at least. The signature was in such things as framing and tonal scalings, abstractions as imperceptible as the infinitely thin clean line. So that one was not, as it were, the person hovering behind the artifact but rather behind the thing that made the artifact. And on the other hand, one did not have to laboriously build up this image. It was not made serially but came forward as a kind of matrix of thought instantaneously, in a manner that criticised the matter..." - HF
His photograph of Frank Stella is published in catalogue for the exhibition Sixteen Americans, the museum of Modern Art. Makes Ways to Purity.
1960-61 - Resides at 237 East Broadway then, with widespread evictions in lower Manhatten, lives in thirteen locales over a period of nineteen months. Begins full-time work as technician specializing in dye imbibition color processes in photographic laboratories (primarily Technicolor, Inc.), which he continues through 1969. Photographs avidly, heavily influenced by formalism of Edward Weston.
1962 - Hospitalised for over six months. When released borrows a friend's Bolex camera and begins filming. In fall continues "tentative experiments in film." Makes Word Pictures, which becomes basis for the film Zorns Lemma.
1962-63 - Undertakes a series of "dialogues" on art, responses composed alternately at the typewriter, with Carl Andre during Frampton's frequent visits to Andre and painter Rosemarie Castoro's one room apartment in Brooklyn.
"Briefly, though, we were both of us: in the arena of language, which is that of power. So, first, I would urge that these dialogues be read, if they are to be read, as anthropological evidence pertaining to a rite of passage and to the nature of friendship." - HF
Lives at 404 East Tenth Street.
1963 - His photograph of James Rosenquist is published in the exhibition catalogue Americans 1963, the Museum of Modern Art.
"I didn't find it a picnic to be a photographer, through the sixties, not because photography was disregarded, although of course that was true, but because my predicament was that of a committed illusionist in an environment that was officially dedicated to the eradication of illusion and, of course, utterly dominated by painting and sculpture. At that time I didn't understand how luxurious it was to find myself alienated in that way. Nothing is more wonderful than to have no one pay the slightest attention to what you are doing; if you're going to grow, you can grow at your own speed." - HF
1965 - Photograph of Larry Poons appears in August issue of Vogue. Lives with artist Lee Lorzano.
1966 - Increasingly interested in film, buys himself Bolex equipment for his thirtieth birthday. In September marries Marcia Steinbrecher (seperated summer 1971, divorced 1974). Teaches filmmaking at Free University of New York.
1969 - Receives grant from Friends of New Cinema. Assistant professor of photography, film, design, at Hunter College, CUNY. Faculty included, among others, Mark Rothko, Raymond Parker, Tony Smith, Leo Steinberg, Robert Morris (through 1973).
"Film, even in its physical attributes, has become a kind of metaphor for consciousness for me. And I think of the incremental frame as a dim but still appealing metaphor for the quantum nature, the chunk nature, of light itself. If you're watching a film, you believe you're watching a complete illusion of something real, but you're actually watching an illusion of only half of what took place. The camera's shutter was closed the other half of the time. So that there's another cinema of equal length that could have been made precisely at the same time. And when you play that back, the shutter in the projector is also closed half the time, so that half the time you're in total darkness. You are! Ok, you don't have anything particular to do, you're quite comfortable, presumably, there's very little exterior stimulus and you're there for a fiftieth of a second, which is, in terms of energy, an appreciable length of time with nothing to do but think about the frame you've just seen." - HF
1970 - Creates the film Zorns Lemma - first feature-length experimental work to be included in New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center. Wins wide critical acclaim. The film uses the alphabet and mathematical systems to structure the film, which becomes a "cryptic autobiography".
"I'm a spectator of mathematics like others are spectators of soccer or pornography." - HF
In May purchases thirty acres of land in Eaton, Madison County, New York, where he spends the summer. Teaches history of film at School of Visual Arts, New York (though 1971). Visiting lecturer in history of film at the Cooper Union (through 1973).
1971 - Begins occasional work in video synthesis, image processing and xerography. Makes Reasonable Facsimilies, first series of xerographs. Creates (nostalgia), an autobiographical film in which the narrator reminisces about a series of still photographs (most taken by Frampton) while, out of synchronization, the images are shown burned on a hot plate. Participates in New York State Council on the Arts Visiting Artists Program (through 1973). Early in the year, meets photographer Marion Faller; in fall moves in with her and her son, Will Faller Jr., to 313 East 9th Street. Spends summer in Eaton, New York. Meets filmmaker Stan Brakhage (during Christmas holidays). Begins filming for long serial which metamorphoses into the monumental opus (uncompleted), the Magellan cycle, an intended total of thirty-six hours of film, organized and meant to be viewed calendrically over the course of 371 days.
"The central conceit of the work derives from the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan, first circumnavigator of the world, as detailed in the diary of his 'passenger' Antonio Pigafetta and elsewhere. During his 5-year voyage, Magellan trespasses (alive and dead) upon every psycho-linguistic 'time zone', circumambulating the whole of human experience as a kind of somnabulist. He returns home, a carcass pickled in cloves, as an exquisite corpse. The protagonist of my work must be a first person consciousness that bears resemblances to myself (if only as the amalgam H.C. Earwicker/Anna Livia Plurabelle resembles James Joyce... and, even, to Flash Gordon and Fantomas of the filmic vulgate." - HF
1972 - Travels to England in summer to research article for Artforum. Visits Stonhenge. Retrospective of films at Walker Art Center, November 16-18.
1973 - Retrospective of films at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, March 8-12. Moves to 803 6th Avenue with Marion and Will. In spring, teaches seminar at State University of New York at Buffalo. Invited to join staff (beginning fall semester), as associate professor, and to develop Center for Media Study and curriculum. Paul Sharits, Steina and Woody Vasulka, James Blue, Brian Henderson and Tony Conrad subsequently join faculty. (Teaches there through February 1984).
1974 - Moves to farmhouse in Eaton, New York with Marion and Will in summer. Beginning in September, commutes biweekly to Buffalo. Continues to travel extensively throughout the seventies as visiting lecturer and artist. Serves on video selection committee, Anthology Film Archives, New York. Participant, American Seminar on Film. Panelist, Coordination Council of Literary Magazines. Major retrospective of films at Fifth International Festival of Experimental Film and Video, Knokke-Heist, Belgium, December 25-January 2, 1975. Continues work on Magellan cycle.
"We are taught to read not so that we can be creative, have interesting thoughts, engage with the great minds of the past, but so that we can read signs that say 'no right turn'. We go to school in order to do that - not even in order to learn to read, but so that we shall be taught to punch in by 8:15 in the morning. By the time we have got out of school, we have learned to punch in by 8:15 in the morning, we have learned to read 'no right turn', we have also on our own looked at 15,000 hours of unregulated, ungoverned, undecoded images that constitute our real education. I grew up like that - everyone grows up like that, Magellan is a film that, like all things (since I have not had the luxury of perfect alienation, but only the partial luxury of imperfect alienation) comes out of an imperfect understanding of my culture. It is probably easiest to imagine it as a project if it is understood not as a project in drama, or in literature, nor as a project in sculpture, but as one that subsists as a work of sculpture in time rather than space." - HF
1975 - Receives National Endowment for the Arts grant to complete Straits of Magellan. Retrospective of films at Anthology Film Archives, New York (April). Receives grant from Creative Artists Program Service Inc., New York State Council on the Arts, for work on Magellan cycle. Shoots Sixteen Studies for Vegetable Locomotion (with Marion Faller). Spends late December through early January filming in Puerto Rico.
1976 - Panelist (thorugh 1978), film program New York State Council on the Arts. Travels to Edinburgh, London, Paris. Continues Magellan cycle.
"The Magellan cycle purports to be encyclopedic, but it's more like a tour of the possible principles for forming an encyclopedia - all, I hope, dutifully laid out and exemplified, but then to a great extent laid out and exemplified all at the same time. And, of course, since not all modes fit very well together, they begin to generate interferences, and, in fact, it's the interferences between ways of classifying things that begin to generate a form that interests me" - HF
1977 - In January, appears on the Screening Room TV programme with Robert Gardner. Designs, with Woddy Vasulka, Digital Arts Laboratory at Center for Media Study, SUNY at Buffalo to formulate digital computer hardware and software for graphic, sound and text manipulation.
"Speaking as a working artist, I've never seen a computer-generated image that I found very interesting. But, on the other hand, computers have been used successfully for making music, electronic music. As a musical tool, the computer has matured. As an image tool, however, it is still young. However, we're optimistic. Things have their natural time, they come and go. The computer will hopefully only make certain tasks in art obsolete - certain loathsome tasks." - HF
Retrospective of films at Rijksmuseum, Otterlo, The Netherlands (October). Receives grant from American Film Institute for work on Magellan cycle. Receives grant from New York State Council on the Arts and Media Study/Buffalo. Again spends Christmas holidays filming in Puerto Rico.
1978 - Retrospective of films at Stedelijk van Abbemuseum and filmuseum, Amsterdam (September). Continues work on Magelllan.
"In an interview with James Joyce which took place in the '30s, after Ulysses had been in print for several years, Joyce remarked that after all this time, no one has yet noted that the book was funny. I consider the Magellan cycle a comedy. Comic art resolves itself in favour of the protagonist. In this case the protagonist is the spectator. I would hope he would have some positive experience - like pleasure." - HF
1979 - Designs, with colleagues at Digital Arts Lab, DEMON, an interpretive micro computer language for editing and modifying audio-data and manipulating sound and VOX, a language for voice synthesis. Reviewer for SUNY Research Foundation (through 1983). Resumes work in xerography. Invited as visiting artist by Light Work to use color Xerox machine at Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York, where he makes False Impressions, with Marion Faller. Begins printing color xerographs, By Any Other Name (six series, 1979-1983).
1980 - Work honoured in Ten Years of Independent Film and Video, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Begins work on R (colour, sound, uncompleted). With students at Digital Arts Laboratory, designs IMAGO, computer language for creating high resolution video imagery in sixteen colours.
"I'm sick and tired of the 'two cultures' of that gulf between what is called science on the one hand, and what is called art on the other. Artists who think there is some great and fundamental gulf between science and art think in terms of a repulsive little cartoon in which the sciences are cold and unfeeling and the arts are warm and emotional. Of course, I get to be typed as an icicle, Frosty the Snowman with his cinematic calculus, which mightily annoys me and hurts my feelings. On the other hand, scientists think of the sciences as straightforward and arts as abounding in mystery. And none of these things is true. In the sciences in particular, and in the queen of the sciences - mathematics - and, indeed, in the almost celestial, clumsily named intellectual entity computer science, which has already made mathematics a kind of subset of its interests, nothing is quite as rampant as a sort of undefined gut aestheticization." - HF
1981 - Receives grant from New York State Council on the Arts and Light Work, Syracuse, New York, for the production of ADSVMVS ABSVMVS. In summer, shoots Protective Coloration, a project long under consideration. Begins to assemble earlier photographic work and to complete unfinished works.
1982 - In August, moves to Buffalo with Marion and Will.
1983 - Made full professor, SUNY at Buffalo. In November shoots Rites of Passage with Marion Faller. Receives Service to the Field grant from National Endowment for the Arts and SUNY at Buffalo for the construction of frame buffer for Digital Arts laboratory and design of software. Receives grant from New York State Council on the Arts and Media Study/Buffalo for work on R.
1984 - Dies at home on March 30, of lung cancer (Frampton was a heavy smoker).
"The mind is a labyrinth. Sometimes it's just one of those very dull labyrinths where the rat runs around one way and he gets an electric shock and the other way he gets a grain of corn; and then there are other days when it's a labyrinth that consists of a straight line... I have all the time the sense that there are perilous random seas that surround all our discourses. We really are on little rafts, and maybe we make it to the Fuji islands and maybe we don't, but in trying to bring back something of the quality of the journey, we have got to talk about more than the raft... If there is not in the tale something of the quality of the random seas as well, then you have essentially falsified it... You have, in the phrase of an old friend of mine, snipped off all the necktie ends to make it look as though the suitcase closed neatly. And something I'm more interested in now (as I'm perhaps older or more confident or less reticent or something like that), is getting a sense of that into my work." - HF
Hollis Frampton Filmography
Clouds Like White Sheep, 1962 / 25' / BW / silent / destroyed
A Running Man, 1964 / 22' / colour / silent / destroyed
Ten Mile Poem, 1964 / 33' / colour / silent / destroyed
Obelisk Ampersand Encounter, 1965 / 1'30" / colour / silent / lost
Manual of Arms, 1966 / 17' / BW / silent
Frampton on Manual of Arms:
"Courtly dances with friends and lovers, in the form of a 14 part drill for the camera, incorporating physiognomic & locomotor evidence related to the lens by 13 artists and an historian, namely: C. Andre, B. Brown, R. Castoro, L. Childs, B. Goldensohn, R. Huot, E. Lloyd, L. Lozano, L. Meyer, L. Poons, M. Snow, M. Steinbrechner, T. Tharp, J. Wieland."
Process Red, 1966 / 3'30" / colour / silent
Frampton on Process Red:
"A first attempt to approximate more than one visual modality in a single brief work. Sightings from the retina, optic nerve, cortex. With this small film, I felt that I had got the bit in my teeth".
Information, 1966 / 4' / BW / silent
Frampton on Information:
"Hypothetical 'first film' for a synthetic tradition constructed from scratch on reasonable principles, given: 1) camera; 2) rawstock; 3) a single bare lightbulb. I admit to having made a number of splices."
States, 1967 / 17'30" / BW / silent
"No, not the United etc. but the conditions, forms in which things exist. Somewhat abstracted, a solid, a liquid and a gas: salt, milk and smoke: falling, pouring and rising are the stars of this classical film. Sheets, streaks and wisps, the protagonists are all white (light). The background, zero place, is black (no light). Silence. The ongoing film reveals the ephemera compartmented in a pattern of temporal proportions in which lengths of salt sheet activity are gradually overtaken by liquid streaks which are in turn overtaken by smoke drifts. But another solid is the sliceable, arrangeable film material itself: the intercutting and the logic of the arrangement introduces something diamond-like, sculptural to the natures presented. There is a profoundly satisfying unity of ends and means that is both 'natural' (the way the protagonists behave) and 'artificial' (the artist's structure). The sum is cultured, beautiful." - Michael Snow
Heterodyne, 1967 / 7' / colour / silent
Frampton on Heterodyne:
"I began to make it when I had no money for raw stock and only several rolls of colored leader but nevertheless (had) the need to make or work on a film. As I first conceived the film, I intended it to be a kind of revenge done with the bare hands against - first of all animation - or cell animation in particular and secondly, against abstract film with a capital A as they were practiced in the late 40's and 50's as a kind of engine cooler for the art houses where I first saw serious foreign movies. As I thought about the film, I wanted it to have a very open, resilient kind of structure with the maximum possible amount of rhythmic variety, both in terms of count, beat and variety in the rhythmic changes of shapes and the rate of the rhythmic change. I used a debased form of matrix algebra to make up, in advance, the structure of the film, and tried out several arithmetic models for that structure... with very short film pieces, before I found one that seemed to suit me. As I came to make the film, it consists entirely of 240 feet of black leader into which are welded about 1,000 separate events. Each consists of one frame, and there are 40 kinds of frame, ranging from a frame that consists entirely of red or green or blue to a frame which may consist of red leader with a triangle of blue leader welded into the middle of it. I say welded because the film was put together using three colors of leader and 3 ticket punches - a square, a circle and a triangle - which I felt to be constantly recognizable and also impersonal shapes - and where one color is let into another, or where a color shape is let into black leader, it is literally welded in with acetone. I was doing all of this under a magnifying glass with tweezers and brushes and so forth... they're disposed along the continuous line of film by a scheme roughly the following: in order to avoid a scheme in which certain types of frames would, by rhythmic recurrence, fall at the same spot in the film, or in the same exact frame, I decided to use prime numbers, that is, numbers divisible only by themselves and as a starting-point since they begin to share harmonics extensively only in their very high multiples - I further decided I could use no prime numbers less than 40, because 40 is the number of frames in a foot and didn't want any single type of event to occur any more often than once every one and two/thirds seconds, and then I subjected my list series of tests that involved the sums of their digits-casting out those that didn't meet the tests so that as it turned out the, commonest event, a frame that is entirely red, occurs every 61 frames in absolutely regular repetition throughout the film; and the least common event, a red triangle on a black ground, occurs every 2,311 frames - all of this necessitated an amount of arithmetic which I did over a period of 6 weeks - reduced it to a large stock of 3X5 cards and collated them, and sat down with my rewinds and splicer and simply put the thing together - altogether on the level of personal logistics, it tied up my time and need to be making a film for about three months at the end of which I found myself with a little more money for raw stock and I could go on and make other kinds of films."
Snowblind, 1968 / 5'30" / BW / silent
Frampton on Snowblind:
"Homage to Michael Snow's environmental sculpture 'Blind.' The film proposes analogies, in imitation of 3 historic montage styles, for three perceptual modes mimed by that work."
Maxwell's Demon, 1968 / 4' / colour / sound
Frampton on Maxwell's Demon:
"I wanted to do something - to put it as sentimentally as possible - for James Clerk Maxwell who is, or was, either the last qualitative physicist or the first quantitative physicist. Maxwell is known and admired among physicists for his work in thermodynamics, which is something I don't know or understand very much about. I believe we're all steeped in thermodynamics in the physical sense; but I have particularly revered Clerk Maxwell because he became, in a very brief aside in a lecture delivered at the Royal College of Edinburgh or some place like that, the Father of the Analytical theory of color, which, in it's applications and ramifications, has given us color photography and color cinematography."
Surface Tension, 1968 / 10' / colour / sound
Frampton on Surface Tension:
"Quite frankly with Surface Tension, I didn't propose to attack so grand as the Sound-Image relationship. I wanted to make a film out of a relatively small number of simple elements, which would be of a piece, to see how much resonance I could generate among those elements. As you know, the film fundamentally contains 3 shots - a man talking while his digital clock runs; a single dolly shot from the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge to the lake in Central Park; and a goldfish swimming very slowly back and forth in a tank outside the sea. Further, it contains only 2 quite simple sounds: one, the sound of the telephone ringing 37 times; and the other, a prose description which for the average speaker of English comes through as a single prolonged sound because it's in a foreign language - in this case, German. Naturally, I had other and more subtle concerns to work out within the body of each of the 5 or 6 blocks of material that I was using. I did certainly want it to be a sound film and I didn't see how I could do it without sound to build up the internal reverberation I wanted among the various parts of the film... but I wanted it to be a very simple sound film, or a film that used sound in a way more simple and obvious than most sound films have - namely, in part as the most direct kind of sensation and presentation rather than as a directly parallel explication or echo or reminder of something that happens to be going on on the screen. Maxwell's Demon, as you remember, is also a sound film, and one reason I chose the sound I did - the sound of film perforations - just plain film perforations - was not only to increase the mass of some of the interspersed shots in the film, but also because I wanted to use the first sound that film ever made which is the sound of film itself. I wanted to use the most fundamental kind of sound in Surface Tension, perhaps, simply as the next stage. As a general footnote, I should say that I think of my films in part as an effort to reconstruct the history of films as it should have been... (The narrator's voice belongs to Kasper Koenig, as indeed also the text he extemporizes)."
"The influence of minimal art (rather the aesthetic of minimal art) on the avant-garde cinema is very great. Most of the important young filmmakers, especially on the East Coast, might be considered minimalists. Certainly Hollis Frampton's SURFACE TENSION is from that milieu. The film itself has three parts: a comic static shot emphasizing the passage of time; a fast motion tour through a city with fractured German commentary; and a slow seascape with fish floating midscreen. In this last section phrases translated from the German commentary are printed over the image. Of all the films seen in this festival, SURFACE TENSION is technically and spiritually the newest." - P. Adams Sitney
Palindrome, 1969 / 22' / colour / silent
While working at a photo lab, Frampton found that the waste at both ends of the rolls of processed film - where chemicals worked on the emulsion through clips used to attach the film to the machine - produced images far too interesting to be discarded. For Palindrome, Frampton selected images which he described as "tending towards the biomorphic", resembling abstract surrealist painting. However, the rigid palindromic structure that Frampton imposes on the images - a motorized sequence based on "twelve variations on each of forty congruent phrases" - deviates from the subjective aesthetic of the expressive, demonstrating Frampton's interest in the "generative power" of films composed by rules and principles.
Frampton on Palindrome:
"The menacing latin palindrome 'In Girvm Imvs Nocte Et Consvmimvr Igni' (By night we go (down) into a gyre/and we are consumed by fire) serves as epigraph to this animated film. Anima is imparted to 12 variations on each of 40 congruent phrases, metamorphosed from the chemically mutilated flesh of color film itself."
"Hollis, clearly this one of your greatest films! Absolute perfection." - Stan Brakhage
Carrots and Peas, 1969 / 5'30" / colour / sound
Frampton on Carrots and Peas:
"A 'traditional' side-dish of mixed vegetables inhabits a succession of 'traditional' art-styles. The sumptuous, sometimes tiresome paradox of the static image in film, is rudely presented in the form of an art historian's slide-lecture... for which genre of discourse the spoken commentary is of about average relevance to the image."
Lemon, 1969 / 7'30" / color / silent
Frampton on Lemon:
"As a voluptuous lemon is devoured by the same light that reveals it, its image passes from the spatial rhetoric of illusion into the spatial grammar of the graphic arts."
Prince Ruperts Drops, 1969 / 7' / BW / silent
Frampton on Prince Ruperts Drops:
"Two repetitive, banal rhythmic acts - as it were from the observe and reverse of a phenakistiscope disk - factored and expanded into a cinema filmstrip. Note: Prince Ruperts Drops are not a confection or a nose candy, but a physical demonstration of extreme internal stresses in equilibrium."
Works and Days, 1969 / 12' / BW / silent
Frampton on Works and Days:
"I bought this film in a Canal Street in a junk shop of 41.00 and found myself in complete agreement with it. The ostensible pretext is the humane and practical discipline of making a vegetable garden (hence the title, borrowed from Hesiod). The gardeners are masters of their art, so that their work blossoms into overarching metaphor. I have attached my logo to the film, not to claim it as a ready-made, but in the spirit of Chinese connoisseurs who affixed their vermilion seals to paintings as a mark of admiration."
Artificial Light, 1969 / 25' / colour / silent
"Artificial light repeats variations on a single filmic utterance twenty times. The same phrase is a series of portrait shots of a group of young New York artists informally talking, drinking wine, laughing, smoking. The individual portrait-shots follow each other with almost academic smoothness in lap-dissolves ending in two shots of the entire group followed by a dolly shot into a picture of the moon. In the following synoptic outline, this entire phrase, which lasts about one minute in black and white, will be called A :
1 . A, upside-down and backwards
2 . A, in negative
3 . A, with superimposition of sprocket holes
4 . A, with eyes painted blue and mouths red
5 . A, scarred with a white drip mark
6 . A, covered with transparent stripes of red and green
7 . Still shots in sequence from A; a stroboscopic or flicker effect
8 . A, almost obliterated by scratches
9 . Shots from A, toned different colors by dye, in an asequential order
10 . A, with faces and hair outlined by scratches, dissolves marked with a scratched slash (/)
11 . A, spotted with multicolor drops
12 . Superimposition of A, with a copy of A in which left and right are reversed
13 . A, with all faces bleached out
14 . A, with a flicker of colors (red, green, blue)
15 . A, covered with art-type printers dots
16 . A, toned sepia
17. A, superimposed over itself with a lag of one-and-a-half-seconds
18 . A, interrupted by two-frame flashes of color negative
19 . A, colored, as if through an electrical process, in a series of two primaries
20 . A, with a closeup of a moon crater substituted for the expected moon shots
It should be obvious from the outline that the filmic phrase functions like a tone row in dodecaphonic music and serial composition. Frampton has made two very interesting manipulations of the experience of this phrase. In the first place, by opening the film with a backwards and upside-down run of it, he dislocates the viewer for several repetitions; one comes gradually to realize that there is a fixed order or direction. That progression is rigidly fixed by the first third of the film. The ninth variation violently jars us with its elliptical disorder. The rest of the film proceeds logically until the last shot which has a feeling of finality both from its variation and from being held on the screen longer...
There is a chasm between the phrase and its formal inflections. That chasm is intellectual as well as formal. Frampton loves an outrageous hypothesis; his films, all of them, take the shape of logical formulae. Usually the logic he invokes is that of the paradox... In a recent lecture at the Millennium in New York, Frampton hypothesized an atemporal alternative to the history of cinema, illustrated by a sequence of his works. With ARTIFICIAL LIGHT, which was not completed in time for that lecture, he challenges the newest historical phase of the formal cinema, the Structural film." - P. Adams-Sitney
Zorns Lemma, 1970 / 60' / colour / sound
"Hollis Frampton has used the participatory film for the indirect and serial autobiography, Hapax Legomena, a title derived from classical philology, referring to those words of which only one instance survives in the ancient texts." - P. Adams-Sitney, Visionary film.
Hapax Legomena I / (nostalgia), 1971 / 36' / BW / sound
Hapax Legomena IV / Travelling Matte, 1971 / 33'30" / BW / silent
Frampton on Travelling Matte:
"Travelling Matte is the pivot upon which the whole of Hapax Legomena turns."
"This film metaphors an entire human life: birth, sex, death - the framing device is the fingers and palm of the maker's hand, wherein others only attempt to read the future." - Stan Brakhage
Hapax Legomena III / Critical Mass, 1971 / 25'30" / BW
"Critical mass shows a young New York couple arguing about their relationship. The film starts on the soundtrack; the screen is blank. Initially the dialogue is cut up in such a way that the couple seems to stutter as they talk (Frampton adds the stutter to such recent perceptual constructs as Warhol stares, Kubelka's flicker and Makes' glimpse). Lines of dialogue are cut into before they are finished, partially repeated, stopped again, repeated, until the phrase or sentence is finished and a new one begins in the same manner. A line like: I'm going to leave you, comes out: I'm goin'... going to lea.... to leave you... save you. An'.... When the image appears, we see the couple arguing, standing against a white wall. The picture is cut to reflect the stutter, repeating itself and going on, finishing one phrase and starting another. Later the stutter effect disappears and a second structural principle emerges. The sound and image go out of synchronization so that we hear the boy speaking while we see the girl's mouth moving and vice versa. The degree of de-synchronization varies mysteriously, disconcerting us.
There are two kinds of temporal tensions in this film. In the first part, the stutter creates a future-past tension as in Nostalgia, only on a more immediate second-to-second basis. The incomplete phrases gives us a sense of what is to come. The repetition brings us backwards, then carries us forward, stops, and returns. Time does not evolve in a linear way. We are continually moved from future to past and back again, with no true sense of a present. In the second past of the film, the sound-image disjunction brings about the temporal problem. Because of our retarded awareness of the disjunction we are never quite sure whether we are listening to something that has already been spoken in the image or to something about to be spoken. We are simultaneously either listening in the present and seeing the past or listening to the past and seeing the present." - Bill Simon
"As a work of art I think (Critical Mass) is quite universal and deals with all quarrels (those between men and women, or men and men, or women and women, or children, or war. It is war!... It is one of the most delicate and clear statements - human relationships and the difficulties of them that I have ever seen. It is very funny, and rather obviously so. It is a magic film in that you can enjoy it, with greater appreciation, each time you look at it. Most aesthetic experiences are not enjoyable on the surface. You have to look at them a number of times before you are able to fully enjoy them, but this one stands up at once, and again and again, and is amazingly clear." - Stan Brakhage
A clip of Peter Greenaway made with Barbara Lattanzi's Critical Mass software.
Hapax Legomena II / Poetic Justice, 1972 / 31'30" / BW
"In Poetic justice we see a table upon which there is a plant and a cup of coffee. A succession of sheets of paper is placed on the table, each describing the shot of a film so that we can reconstruct the film in our mind's eye from the written descriptions. The imagined film is in four tableaux, one of which contains a major temporal problem. In this tableau, every second shot is followed by one containing a still photograph of the previous shot. The second shot in each successive pair therefore refers back to the past; the photograph freezes the action of the first shot. However, in the description for the second shot of each pair, there are instructions that do not appear in the description for the first. In each case, the written instruction describes an action that occurs after the action of the first shot so that the second shot in each pair is a rendering of the past state of events and carries the action of the imagined film a step forward. Two directions of temporal experience are mixed in a single image." - Bill Simon
"In POETIC JUSTICE, Frampton presents us with a 'scenario' of extreme complexity in which the themes of sexuality, infidelity, voyeurism are 'projected' in narrative sequence entirely through the voice telling the tale--again it is the first person singular speaking, however, in the present tense and addressing the characters as 'you,' 'your lover,' and referring to an 'I.' We see, on screen, only the physical aspect of a script, papers resting on a table... and the projection is that of a film as consonant with the projection of the mind." - Annette Michelson
Hapax Legomena V / Ordinary Matter, 1972 / 36' / BW / sound
Frampton on Ordinary Matter:
"A vision of a journey, during which the eye of the mind drives headlong through Salisbury Cloister (a monument to enclosure), Brooklyn Bridge (a monument to connection), Stonehenge (a monument to the intercourse between consciousness and LIGHT)...visiting along the way diverse meadows, barns, waters where I now live; and ending in the remembered cornfields of my childhood. The soundtrack annexes, as mantram, the Wade-Giles syllabary of the Chinese language."
"I suppose there is extra-ordinary matter. Almost everything in the world is made of ordinary matter. But where I got the title was... simple in a way. We think of matter as being gas, liquid, and solid, let's say; as occupying three states, and those are the ones that we experience directly. But there is something that physicists call plasma, which is very attenuated gas: a hydrogen atom; then you go on for a few yards, there is another hydrogen atom... There is hardly anything there. And that plasma behaves differently from ordinary matter. Well, it turns out that most of the matter, most of the substance of the universe, of the whole universe, is not the ordinary matter which we are familiar with, but this plasma, and what we are tuned to is these little cloths of dense, organized stuff, which we go flying through as if it was the most ordinary thing in the world. But it turns out that it's a very special case in the universe indeed (...). I suppose I think of it as a kind of acceleration from Travelling matte, the eye is groping and feeling its way and staggering, and so forth. And in Ordinary matter the need somehow to worry about those words and still photographs, and so forth, is behind. Ordinary matter is for me a kind of ecstatic, headlong dive. (And it goes through nature, architecture, high peaks of contemporary civilization, and through the oldest monuments that we have - the scope of it in time and space is so wide...) and finally the eye that was trying to see out, through the little hole - through the fist, in Travelling matte opens up and does, to an extent, really see out, or I feel it does, and ends with something that is a very old image in my eye, of running through corn fields as a child, with the leaves slapping me in the face, and the sun hitting me, and so forth..." - Jonas Mekas interviews Hollis Frampton, Village Voice
Hapax Legomena VI / Remote Control, 1972 / 29' / BW / silent
Frampton on Remote Control:
"A 'baroque' summary of film's historic internal conflicts, chiefly those between narrative and metric/plastic montage; and between illusionist and graphic space. It incorporates 3 apposite 'found' narratives, condenses 5 ways of making, and includes a 'surprise' out of Haydn (or S.M. Eisenstein's IVAN, II)."
"I hardly can talk about Remote Control at all. There, of course, the images speed up to the point where every successive frame is different from every previous frame, so that if there is an image in it, it's a kind of inner voice within the images, as sometimes music will have many voices that can be written out on the paper, and then in the listening the real shape of the music is to be found in the voice that is generated among them. (...) Remote Control is silent. Remote Control is noisy enough, I think, without a sound-track. It was again begun as video. It was shot in a single evening, off the tube, right off the ordinary TV set, in the course of evening. Actually, I did it twice, I didn't like the first evening. But it was made one frame for one shot. Every time the shot changed, or every time it panned, so it was completely displaced, I made another frame. Exceptions are graphic things, for there's type in commercials, so that was cut out. I have to admit, I tinkered with it, I took out some frames, quite a few frames that didn't seem to be be working." - Jonas Mekas interviews Hollis Frampton, Village Voice
Hapax Legomena VII / Special Effects, 1972 / 10'30" / BW / sound
"It's a black frame, a white dotted line. You're seeing in the negative... just the same. (So this frame, it's not steady, it keeps sort of shaking, as if the camera is not steady or the frame is not steady) There is a little jiggle to it. That white dotted line is the frame. I wanted to affirm and honor the film frame itself. Because so much of what we know now, so much of our experience is something that comes to us through that frame. It seems to be a kind of synonym for what we are conscious of. I have only seen the pyramids of Egypt within that frame. I have only seen - endless things - most of what I believe I have experienced I have in fact seen at the movies. I've seen it inside that frame. But then, it's just my frame too, it's not everyone's. So that rather than filming it as a rock-steady kind of monument, I did film hand-held, and with a long lens, and put myself in a physical position where it would be to hold the camera steady. I wanted to shake while... That is my own frame, that is the vibration, let's say, of my own imagination and my own body, in relation to that bounded possibility of consciousness. Then you can imagine whatever you want inside of it." - Jonas Mekas interviews Hollis Frampton, Village Voice
Apparatus Sum, 1972 / 2'30"/ colour / silent
Frampton on Apparatus Sum:
"A brief lyric film of death, which brings to equilibrium a single reactive image from a roomful of cadavers."
Tiger Balm, 1972 / 10' / colour / silent
Frampton on Tiger Balm:
"After two years of massive didacticism in black-and-white [Hapax Legomena (1971-72)], I am surprised by Tiger Balm, lyrical, in color, a celebration of generative humors and principles, in homage to the green of England, the light of my dooryard… and consecutive matters."
Yellow Springs, 1972 / 5' / colour / silent
Frampton on Yellow Springs:
"A portrait of the filmmaker, Paul Sharits, in particular response to energies he generated one May afternoon in 1971."
Public Domain, 1973 / 18' / BW / silent / unreleased
"In PUBLIC DOMAIN... Frampton recapitulates cinema's infancy in a series of direct quotes from such notable primitive works as RECORD OF A SNEEZE (FRED OTT'S SNEEZE) and SANDOW FLEXING HIS MUSCLES, two 1894 Edison kinetoscopic shorts, as well as literal pieces of cinematic juvenilia (child wading at the beach, another throwing a tantrum at home, three women merrily blowing bubble pipes, and the finale, a melodramatic weighing of a newborn attended by anxious father, doctor, and nurse)--all readily retrievable/quotable fragments from our finite federal version of the 'infinite film,' the paper print collection at the Library of Congress." - Bruce Jenkins
Less, 1973 / 1' / BW / silent
"Near the end of 1973, Frampton realized that he had not finished a single film over the course of a year. He promptly conceived and executed LESS, a doubly punning work in which a minimalist Frampton generates a twenty-four frame (one-second) loop of the incremental blacking out of a nude image by photographer Les Krims." - Bruce Jenkins
Autumnal Equinox, 1974 / 27' / colour / silent
"...filmed in a slaughterhouse in South St. Paul, MN... Frampton utilizes a shooting strategy that flattens and pictorializes a palpable space of action that includes not only cattle (now seen hanging from huge meathooks), but even on occasion, figures. The abattoir is seen in the fleeting movements of Frampton's hand-held camera. The shots generally begin and end with swift panning movements which effectively flatten and abstract the objects of this work environment. And although a brief passage of green leader is used to mark each cut, the smearing effect of the rapid camera movements tends to elide the shots, to make the flattened color planes run together." - Bruce Jenkins
Noctiluca, 1974 / 3'30" / colour / silent
"Noctiluca is a three and one-half minute film designed to be shown on the second day of the MAGELLAN cycle. The title (nox/luceo) means something that shines by night, i.e., the moon, and the film indeed consists of a bright sphere, sometimes white, sometimes tinted, sometimes single, sometimes doubled and overlapped. This suggests to me the nocturnal navigation that Magellan had to rely upon in his first-ever trip around the world. (The second day of the cycle seems to be an inventory of the knowledge, machines, and arms that Magellan--and latterday voyagers like Frampton--had at the outset of his journey.) The film also refers of course to Stan Brakhage's much longer, and monumental, 1973 film TEXT OF LIGHT, which studied the prismatic reflections occasioned by sunlight passing through a glass ashtray. Frampton's film is, characteristically, more controlled and economical than Brakhage's, but no less beautiful." - Brian Henderson
Winter Solstice, 1974 / 33' / colour / silent
"Shot at U.S. Steel's Homestead Works in Pittsburgh,...WINTER SOLSTICE is full of outpourings of fire, of smoke, of sparks, of molten metal--all erupting against an otherwise black background in an activated pictorial space. The complex abstract compositions that flash upon the screen in full-scale explosions of white light or in the aftermath of effervescent sparks reflect Frampton's painterly handling of the camera (hand-held and fluid) and his rhythmic use of color (blue frames are used to mark each cut). While WINTER SOLSTICE pays homage to the work of a number of New York school painters, its steel mill setting represents, as Frampton noted, 'A pretextual locus dearly beloved by our Soviet predecessors.'" - Bruce Jenkins
Straits of Magellan: Drafts & Fragments, 1974 / 52' / colour / silent
"A sampling of forty-nine fragments from Frampton's catalogue of 'actualities,' the films from STRAITS OF MAGELLAN: 'DRAFTS & FRAGMENTS' are all silent and unedited. Several invoke directly the work of the Lumieres, as in Frampton's reworking of DEMOLITION D'UN MUR (1895) in which a dilapidated farm silo is demolished in place of the Lumieres' wall. He makes reference to his own work... and pays homage to the work of contemporaries. A complex range of formal issues are raised in other fragments. Finally, Frampton offers a number of analogues for the act of filming and cinematic seeing that include a series of appropriated 'lenses' (a stone portal, a wooden silo) and a set of 'screens' (a pool of water, curtains, a dusty window)." - Bruce Jenkins
Summer Solstice, 1974 / 32' / colour / silent
Vexilla Regis, 1974 / 6' 30" / colour / silent / unreleased
Banner, 1974 / 40" / colour / silent
INGENIVM NOBIS IPSA PVELLA FECIT, 1975 / 67' / colour / silent
SOLARIUMAGELANI, 1974-75 / 159' /colour / silent
Drum, 1975 / 20" / colour /
Pas De Trois, 1975 / 4.25' / colour / silent
"The question of whether certain kinds of film formalism tend to be sexually reactionary is encapsulated in this little triptych. Each of the three sections includes three kinds of information. In the first section, we see single frames of strippers dancing; single frame clusters of clear red, then later, clear yellow; and single frame clusters of what looks to be a light source. The imagery and clear colors mix retinally, and with the flickering light source, makes this section reminiscent of looking into a movie projector. In the second section we see live action footage of a little girl presumably competing in a twirling contest. This footage regularly dissolves into and out of light blue which itself is punctuated each time, between fade in and fade out, by a single frame of what looks like a movie screen. Finally, in the third section, red-toned footage of three strippers, recorded in slightly fast motion, alternates with eight-frame passages of lime green leader and, in four instances, with shots of several fish in a tank reminiscent of the fish and tank in the final section of SURFACE TENSION. Together, the three sections suggest something of film's history (the single frames of the stripper and the flicker during the first section are suggestive of Muybridge and the earliest film showings), as well as the three mechanical components of the film apparatus--projector, screen, film (the fish are in the water in the tank, as the imagery is 'in' the emulsion on the film)--and film's historical propensity to use the female figure (and the drama of its innocence and sexuality) as the focus of the viewer's gaze. PAS DE TROIS is reminiscent of Paul Sharits' single-frame films, of Robert Huot's STRIP, and of some of Frampton's earliest film work." - Scott MacDonald
Magellan: At the Gates of Death
Part I: The Red Gate, 1976 / 54' / colour / silent
Part II: The Green Gate, 1976 / 52' / colour / silent
"In the final format for MAGELLAN, Frampton had planned to disassemble these two films into twenty-four 'encounters with death' that were to be shown in five-minute segments twice a month. In their present state, seen together and roughly the length of an average feature film, the two parts of MAGELLAN: AT THE GATES OF DEATH constitute perhaps the most gripping, monumental, and wrenching work ever executed on film... Frampton in 1971 began his filming of cadavers at the Gross Anatomy Lab at the University of Pittsburgh. He returned to the lab four times over the course of the next two years and then spent nine months assembling his 'forbidden imagery' into an extraordinary meditation upon death." - Bruce Jenkins
Otherwise Unexplained Fires, 1976 / 14' / colour / silent
"Filmed in large part during HF's lecture-screening tour in the bay area: visit(s) to the Musee Mechanique, Land's End, the Cliff House. The San Francisco fog is proclaimed, as also are the cypress trees that line parts of our local beach. A visit to the Brakhage Colorado residence provided images of chickens/roosters." - Gail Camhi
Cold Walks, 1976 / 7' 30" / colour / silent / unreleased
Not The First Time, 1976 / 6' / colour / silent
"This film is composed of different and relatively commonplace subjects, but each image is a super-imposition ('double exposure') of two similar shots of the same subject, almost in the same position. The effect is amazing: one's gaze at the image becomes a double gaze, as the two images were made at different times and with slightly different framing. The viewer is engaged in a process of double-vision that returns him to image and subject in a manner more complex, more self-aware, and more temporal than the way most of us view photographs." - Fred Camper
All in Good Time, 1976 / 8' / colour / silent / unreleased
Time Out of Mind, 1976 / 7' / colour / silent / unreleased
The Test of Time, 1976 / 14' / colour / silent / unreleased
For Georgia O'Keeffe, 1976 / 3.5' / colour / silent
"...one of several films that Frampton planned to go into a 'portrait gallery' somewhere toward the end of MAGELLAN. He finished only two other films for this section--YELLOW SPRINGS (1972) and QUATERNION (1976), portraits of Paul Sharits and James Rosenquist respectively. As self-reflexive as the rest of MAGELLAN, these films acknowledge and explore debts that the films of the cycle owe to other artists. O'KEEFFE consists of a series of static shots of a skycraper at night, recalling her 1925 painting 'Radiator Building, Night,' which emphasizes the structure's checkered pattern of lights. Like painting and still photography, each Frampton shot is static, but since each has a different pattern of lights than the one before, cinema's time dimension is also affirmed, thereby distinguishing it from painting and photographs. (Apparently slight variations within recurring identical shots or series of shots is the format of many Frampton films.) To avoid even the 'apparent motion' of cutting from one pattern of lights to another, Frampton has spliced twenty-four frames of blue leader between shots. The homage to O'Keeffe, and the film's study of the relations among painting-photography-film, is even more complex than appears since O'Keeffe was living with pioneer photographer Alfred Stieglitz when she painted 'Radiator Building, Night.' If his work in part inspired this painting (it is more 'mythic' than documentary), it inspired in turn his thirties photographs of skyscrapers--taken from the apartment near the top of the Shelton where she painted 'Radiator Building, Night." - Brian Henderson
Quaternion, 1976 / 4.5' / colour / silent
"Strategy and imagery combat
and aid each other in pairs. QUATERNION... a spatial figure of monumental
attractions... interference... an undulating gyre. Hollis superimposes a
fragmenting Muybridge-like grid of Cartesian elements (details of the fire
escape outside the studio) against shots of rooftops superimposed in perfect
scale with the billboard-like segments of an automobile, enlarged flower, and a
spoon... panels of the 20' x 20' mural for the New York World's Fair in James
Rosenquist's Broome Street studio--New York, mid-1960s. A discourse between the
painter painting and the filmmaker criss-crossing one vector against another,
undermining any single plane of reference. Rosenquist's paintings are like movie
screens in which frames from several different films are superimposed and
intercut. The studio becomes a theatre within which image objects collide. The
filmmaker reiterates the passage from identity to difference, generating a
conceptual pre-literate space... a safari by Hollis into the categorical domains
of artifactual debris." - Patrick Clancy
Procession, 1976 / 4' / colour / silent
"The understandable fascination with Frampton's intellect can blind one to the frequent down-home dimension of his imagery. Here, in a most rigorously formal, even mathematical procession, we see frame clusters of light blue sky, green grass, and red (filter red) leaves; then frame clusters of the backs of dairy cows; and finally frame clusters of portions of a shiny vehicle (we can see people, objects in bulbous reflection). A trip to the New York State Fair filtered through a most rarified formal film." - Scott MacDonald
Dreams of Magellan: Part I: Ludus Luminus, Chromaticus, 1976 / 27'30" / colour / silent / unreleased
Gloria!, 1979 / 10' / colour / sound
"In GLORIA! Frampton
juxtaposes nineteenth-century concerns with contemporary forms through the
interfacing of a work of early cinema with a videographic display of textual
material. These two formal components (the film and the texts) in turn relate to
a nineteenth-century figure, Frampton's maternal grandmother, and to a
twentieth-century one, her grandson (filmmaker Frampton himself). In attempting
to recapture their relationship, GLORIA! becomes a somewhat comic, often
touching meditation on death, on memory and on the power of image, music and
text to resurrect the past." - Bruce Jenkins
More Than Meets The Eye, 1979 / 7.5' / colour / silent
"...Frampton travels to the purported birthplace of the Eisensteinian model of cinema, the fairground, with its 'montage of attractions'... ambulating wide-angled portrait of the fair, its throng of participants, its array of attractions (Belgian Waffles, Walk Away Sundaes, Flying Bobs, the Toboggan, a Hall of Health). Interpolated within this walking tour are nine optically reversed textual passages which are briefly flashed on-screen, framed by a repeated image of a ride appropriately known as 'The Scrambler.'" - Bruce Jenkins
The Birth of Magellan: Dreams of Magellan: Part I - VI, 1977-79 / 108' / colour / sound
The Birth of Magellan: Mindfall, Parts I - VII, 1977-80 / 153' / colour / sound
"Frampton wsa especially fascinated by Eisenstein's theory of 'vertical montage,' the notion that filmic structure could be built not only horizontally (sequentially), like a melody, but vertically, like a chord. In the MINDFALL sections of 'Magellan' Frampton used desynchronized sound, along with super-imposition and a complex editing structure, to approach the possibility of vertical montage" - Harvey Nosowitz
"If you start responding to every stimulus, then you end up as a nerve gas case, quite literally. Neurons fire at once." - Hollis Frampton
The Birth of Magellan: Fourteen Cadenzas, 1977-80 / 77' / colour / sound
"The film about the bride in which two gentlemen, who we may presume to be bachelors, strip more or less bare a putative bride of some sort." - Hollis Frampton
Hollis Frampton interview with Ester Harriott, Buffalo 1978
Hollis Frampton interview with
Adele Friedman, Chicago 1978