Hollis Frampton



"Language and image, each trespassing in the other's house, secrete disquieting disjunctions, conundrums, circularities. We are accustomed to the poetic strategy, within language, of bracketing a noun within the genus of yet another noun, which may come from an alien phylum, a foreign kingdom. Translation of that strategy into the economy of images yields artifacts....savagely grotesque, arch, silly....that seem to flee the rigors of self-reference; contradictory images, far from coalescing in a dialectical encounter, annihilate one another in a gesture that sweeps language clean of specification and seems on the point of suggesting a raw map of the preconscious work -- the material ACTION -- of language. 

It is as though the formation of the meaningful had some ultimate chemical origin, 'parts of speech' combine into propositional molecules through electrovalent attraction, or, where that attraction is lacking, remain in solution as free radicals. If art has had a scientific mission, we find it in the exposure of such mechanisms, in a nonlinear display of the OCCASIONS of meaning. For meaning is not, for image or word, in things; it is in people. But there are other grounds on which to hunt those occasions besides the precincts of art. 

One such artless place is the supermarket, an ocean of modularized substance where everything in sight is meant only to be consumed, destroyed, wasted, returned as quickly as possible to the domains of amorphy or thermodynamic affinity. Where everything goes down the drain, anything goes. A certain appetite of mind can, then, find more nourishment in the label on the can than in its contents, a poetic, if wayward, feast. That appetite began in photography, and grew with film. It has not found its limit. Rather, it seeks it, in a METAPRAXIS of observation, analysis, and production." - Hollis Frampton, 'False Impressions' series, 1979


"The author has come to suppose that he conserved the things represented herewith against the day when they were to be photographed, understanding them to harmonize with photographs then unmade according to a principle within the economy of the intellect. A photographic text and its proper pretext bear the following resemblance to one another, each is a sign of the perfective absence of the other. 

In the unimaginable and ordinary case of their copresence, an object and its picture, contending for the center of the spectatorial arena, induce, out of mutual rejection, an oscillation of attention whose momentary frequency is the implicit cantus firmus of our thought. If we understand but poorly our own notion of likeness between paired entities, we understand even less the manner in which entities are like, or unlike, or may come to be like, or unlike, themselves. 

This indisposition depends from a temporary defect, that we have not yet evolved to comfort in the domain of time, our supreme fiction, that parses sets of spaces in favor of successiveness. But before there were photographs, there are autographs, or happenstances whereunder bounded vacations of matter generate asexual artifacts, reproductions of themselves, necessarily incomplete, dessications, mummies, memories, traces indistinguishable from residues. Appearances such as these, found free in nature, command our attention, for they present to us, hovering at the margins of legibility, a collocation of failed instants when matter seems about to invent, in comparison and it's precedent recollection, the germ of consciousness. 

Nature, or the customary behavior of matter, implies the photographic image at least as certainly as it implies ourselves. Accordingly, since they predate us, photographs may be treated scientifically. Fourteen argued plates are appended. The author acknowledges that their identifications are as probabilistic as the captions of all photographs, thereby suggesting that taxonomy is a statistical discipline." - Hollis Frampton, 'ADSVMVS ABSVMVS' series, 1982


"I was born during the Age of Machines. 

A machine was a thing made up of distinguishable 'parts' organized in imitation of some function of the human body. Machines were said to 'work.' How a machine 'worked' was readily apparent to an adept, from inspection of the shape of its 'parts.' The physical principles by which machines 'worked' were intuitively verifiable. 

The cinema was the typical survival-form of the Age of Machines. Together with its subset of still photographs, it performed prizeworthy functions: it taught and reminded us (after what then seemed a bearable delay) how things looked, how things worked, how to do things... and of course (by example), how to feel and think. 

We believed it would go on forever, but when I was a little boy, the Age of Machines ended. We should not be misled by the electric can opener: small machines proliferate now as though they were going out of style because they are doing precisely that. 

Cinema is the Last Machine. It is probably the last art that will reach the mind through the senses. 

It is customary to mark the end of the Age of Machines as the advent of video. The point in time is imprecise: I prefer radar, which replaced the mechanical reconnaissance aircraft with a static anonymous black box. Its introduction coincides quite closely with the making of Maya Deren's Meshes of the Afternoon and Willard Maas's Geography of the Body

The notion that there was some exact constant at which the tables turned, and cinema passed into obsolescence and thereby into art, is an appealing fiction that implies a special task for the metahistorian of cinema." - Hollis Frampton, For a Metahistory of Film


From the book "Dreams of Chaos, Visions of Order: Understanding the American Avant-garde Cinema" by James Peterson:

In 1973, after the screening of three Frampton films, during which the audience were decidedly restless, a woman asked the filmmaker if he thought his films communicated to an audience. Frampton responded:

"If you mean, do I think I communicated to those in the audience who tramped indignantly out of my films, the answer is no, but I think there is a problem with your idea of communication. You seem to work on the assumption that you have this hole and I have this thing, and you want me to put my thing in your hole and that will be 'communication'. My idea of communication is very different. It involves my trying to say something I think is important and into which I have put all my thought and substantial labor. Neccessarily, what I have to say will be difficult to apprehend, if it is original enough to be worth saying at all. That is my half of the communicative process. Yours must be to sensitize and educate yourself fully enough to be able to understand. It is only when two people - filmmaker and viewer in this case - can meet as equals that true communication can take place."

"Cinema is a Greek word that means ‘movie’. The illusion of movement is certainly an accustomed adjunct of the film image, but that illusion rests upon the assumption that the rate of change between successive frames may vary only within rather narrow limits. There is nothing in the structural logic of the filmstrip that can justify such an assumption. Therefore we reject it. From now on we will call our art simply: film." - Hollis Frampton, For a Metahistory of Film


"This book swims upstream, to the place where it was spawned. Twenty years ago, when I disbelieved that it would ever be given me to make films, and when I was a lowercase surrealist, and when I disbelieved that filmmaking started, like making love by telephone, with a script... I wrote films scripts. Later, it came time to make a work in seven parts, of which 'Poetic Justice' is the uncomfortable (it doesn't move) second, and to recapitulate some of the history of film art as though it were my like to recollect..." - Hollis Frampton, Poetic Justice book

"One fine morning, I awoke to discover that, during the night, I had learned to understand the language of birds. I have listened to them ever since. They say: 'Look at me!' or: 'Get out of here!' or: 'Let's fuck!' or: 'Help!' or: 'Hurrah!' or: 'I found a worm!' and that's all they say. And that, when you boil it down, is about all we say. (Which of those things am I saying now?)" - Hollis Frampton, A Pentagram for Conjuring the Narrative


"I will open a studio where you go to have your picture 'taken'. You bring with you any photograph you like. After a small deposit, the photographer takes the photograph from you, at which time the balance falls due." - Hollis Frampton


"This whole business of words - the whole sense of tense and complicated problems about knowledge, about making things in relation to all the things that were already made with words - seems to have fallen into film." - Hollis Frampton


Hollis Frampton