Letter from Hollis Frampton to Sally Dixon (8/16/1972)

August 16, 1972
Dear Sally,
Well. I got your note scribbled around the margin of specs on the course biznlss at the workshop. Will I participate? I’d love to. But I haven't a thought in my head at the moment. In fact, for the time being, I find myself distinctly nauseated...no, that's too strong a word...let's say I feel a little wave of revulsion, each time the thought of teaching flits through my mind. Of course this is a dangerous feeling to have, since my next necessary plunge into the classroom is less than a month off. What I have clearly in memory is an image of those blank, but somehow greedy, cheeselik faces, all swivelled on rollerbearing necks in my direction, in the contractual expectation that I'll sorinkle the magic sparkle dust on them, and they'll acquire without effort the secrets of the ages. And now, in the N.Y. City University system, we have an innovation, whereunder any student who isn't satisfied with the grade given it, can apply to have that grade reviewed. Review is by a committee of 3 faculty? the instructor giving the grade has to write a full report of the whole matter. Which makes a stupefying amount of desk work for at least 4 people. Sa that it's a form of blackmail. Well, I currently have 3 people protesting D's.
But the day will come shortly when students unsatisfied with a B will apply for an A: and if we want any peace in our lives, we will just give A's and send everybody home.
GOD damn it, what in the cosmos does all that have to do with teaching? What a mess.
Anyhow, I'll think about it. Perhaps when the current backlog is dealt with, if that day ever comes. I am committed to some writing, which is driving me straight up the wall, and I'm swearing I'll never undertake to write another word again. Currently I'm weaning a leviathanic essay on 19th Century British photography, for Artforum,..with kicks and curses, so that the household vibrates.
But. Some sixteen of the one-minute segments for STRAITS OF MAGELLAN are now in the can, and I am being given more of them approximately daily. ALL the raw footage for Ordinary Matter, which is the last and keystoning portion of HAPAX LEGOMENA, is under control, and that whole intricate thing is in various parts of the "throes". (Ordinary Matter is the one with the Stonehenge images, amongst—many--others), I had thought it would be fairly/ simple; instead, it has become, from the editing standpoint, the most intricate thing I've ever had visited upon me. ABCD rools at least, +
plus, for what I think will be the first time in history,
A & B track. I, who have been billed as a minimalist.
There's a classic piece of thishful winking for you.
And 6 new short fillms, all in various stages, all silent, all in color, forming a complementary pair of triptychs.
They grew out of the "green" film I shot in England, and the Sharits portrait, and I find myself somewhat taken aback by the whole thing.
So that I am, on balance, working: in fact, working a great deal, though at any instant when I'm not, it seems as though it's been epochs since I did, so that I groan and bitch a great deal.
In short, it has been so far a summer whose carrier wave is characterized by short frequency and high amplitude: rapid alternations of sharp UPS and DOWNS.
Anyhow: you have been REfunded, pretty much, and of course that is wonderful. Miracles come to those who deserve them, largely...what comes to the undeserving are of course not miracles but dumb luck, and one knows the difference because dumb luck isn't repeated.
So there is cause for joy in Pittsburgh. Of course you will get the rest of your dough. And that will improve your spirits, and your spirits will take your mortal portion in hand, as it were, and you will shortly commence, if you haven't already, feeling your sprightly self. You see Stan told me that you hadn't been especially well this Summer: and I know, as surely as I’m aware that there are in fact ills of the body, that such things are markedly affected by one's morale.
I'm glad also that the films & stills perked you up. Those frame blow-ups are in short supply, of course, so that the multitudes who want Stonehenge images will have to wait with their metaphorical tongues hanging out. If I have any time to spend in the darkroom, it is going to be used to make more frame- and strip-blowups of other stuff...and that is hard labor in the salt mines for me. Whatever there gets to be, will include file copies for your archives, since I do believe in spreading such things out. Stills from STATES (wch/ I think you don't know) and SURFACE TENSION shd/ be forthcoming fairly soon.
When shall we two meet again? I have a tentative suggestion. I'm to do a number in Rochester, N.Y. on Wed, Nov. 8. It occurs to me that I might fly from there to Pittsburgh, and return to N.Y. in time to do classes on Monday, Nov. 13.
The time will be ripe again for filming dissections. I shd/ probably like to do some post-prod, sound work in the wkshop.
I am perfectly willing, even eager, to bring along whatever new work there Is, starting way back with SPECIAL EFFECTS and POETIC JUSTICE, for free screenings, public or private. IF there is color-video (1/2" Sony) gear available, I'11 show the raw tapes of Magellan's submlcroscopic guts, that I made on the Paik-Abe synthesizer in March of this year, on that Binghamton trip of such ill star and ill fame.
But (and/or, also) I wd/ like, as usual, to know 2 things ;
1) is there any local gig I can do to raise some money?
2) Wd/ it be possible for me to continue my love affair with the Buchla synthesizer...or was Victor Grauer too entirely estranged by my not showing up at his event, in the midst of that incredible exhaustion of January? I do NOT want to put anyone on some dime-size spot of horrible embarrassment...at the same time, of course, the tool is sitting there, and I letch to take it up in my grimy paw once more. I have already got some things out of it that I love very much, and one, of course, that became a viable track. So.........?
Let us say, whatever can be packed and crammed into 4 days, namely Nov 9,10,11,12. Maybe even autopsy, which I must, surely, do eventually for poor old Magellan. That might end up waiting for another year, though. Magellan is a (or his CLOUDS are) a long haul, like the Cantos, or Finnegans Wake: the Grrrrrrrrreat Synnnnnnthesis, et cetera, and so (yawn!) forth, ad infin(yawn!)itum.
Even, I wd/ make mushroom soup again.
In the midst of all the depressions & ecstasies, some things have grown, at least. Will! has grown, immeasurably; A summer in the country doesn't seem to have done anything but good for the 5 year old contingent. The little herb garden, to our utter amazement, goes like a house on fire. Even perennial seeds, planted the 3rd. week in June of all times, have quite unifrmly germinated already, and are sturdy: thyme, peppermint, oregano, lavender, sage, chives, lemon balm. Among the annuals, dill, anise, basil, parsely, all prosper. The caraway, I fear, will never make it to seed. Shallots magnificent. Tarragon, which is supposed to be difficult, went up like a rocket, and began to branch precisely on the 4th of July, like the book says.
And, wonder of wonders, while the peppers lag too far behind to be other than ornamental, we are eating, today, our first eggplant.
What of your nest of Greek beans, for which I pray nightly (more or less)? I hold seed, but didn’t plant this year: time passed without giving me a chance. And I fear for the greek melons, that I once hoped for: sent some to Jane too, and neither of us have got to the melon point (though I, at least, have blossoms).
What else to report? hmm, have you seen the RIDDLE OP LUMEN? It’s very surprising (Stan seems surprised also): MUCH more so than EYES was, awhile back...at least to me.
I ache to see THE PROCESS, which preceded it. RIDDLE... is hard as a hickory nut, it doesn't yield up its meat very easily. There are no easy seductions available, in fact I ain't found one. It is not "gorgeous", for instance, with that appetizing gorgeousness that comes almost (covertly) to a pinnacle in THE ACT OF SEEING WITH ONE’S OWN EYES ...assuming, of course, that the viewer have a healthy appetite for animal .protein.... And what I wd/ call Stan’s "ear" has never been better: the rhythmic poise of the film is exquisite (I mean that word precisely* exquisiteness is a poised state: the dish, poised in deliciousness, which can in an instant become either cloying, or nauseatingly rich, if the equipoise is lost).
A good badass film...and I know Stan is now feeling better too, and shooting again. So.
Scarcely anyone I know has complained of a season of unadulterated delight. Most everyone, on the otherhand, seems to be coming through, with general weight on the side of constructiveness, the black, side of the ledger.
So what about the fall?
Be well, Sally. XAIPE
Yes I still live in the same pocket; but the box number will hold my mail, In the winter when I ain't always here, with less fuss than Hamilton P.0, will. Anyway, Eaton township is where I actually am.
N.B. = note new address:
EATON, N.Y. 13334
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