Program notes for collection screening of films by Hollis Frampton (4/20/1981-5/19/1983)

LESS (1975) 1 min.
APPARATUS SUM (1972) 3min.
ZORNS LEMMA (1970) 60 min.
LESS is a one second film (24 frames long), putting it in contention to be the shortest film ever made. (It is repeated 24 times, so that, with a frame of leader in between each time, it lasts approximately one minute.) The image in this curious and witty film is a still photograph of a nude woman, being obliterated by magic marker. Frampton, it should be noted, worked as a still photographer before turning to film, so at this level LESS has autobiographical implications -- the destruction of photography in/by film. The ancedotal pose of the nude also anticipates the central motif in Frampton's major work celebrating the VERNAL EQUIN0X years later which, like LESS, is concerned with the control of events which film provides— so that even the "magic" marker, which "animates" this image, is an important part of the iconography of LESS. --Bill Judson, 4/81
APPARATUS SUM: "A brief lyric film of death, which brings to equilibrium a single
reactive image from a roomful of cadavers. Thanks to Sally Dixon and Dr. Nidolajs Cauna." — Hollis Frampton
In this short film, shot at the University of Pittsburgh Medical School, what begins as simply a rectangle of red leader becomes the key tone for this meditation on mortality, —Bill Judson 4/31
"ZORNS divided into three sections: an initial imageless reading of the Bay State Primer; a long series of silent shots, each one second of photographed signs edited to form one complete Latin alphabet; and finally a single shot of two people walking across, a snow-covered field away from the camera to the sound of a choral reading,
"The first of several intellectual orders which Frampton provides as structural models within the film is, of course, the alphabet. The Bay State Primer announces, and the central forty minutes of this hour long film elaborates it. Within that section a second kind of ordering occurs; letters begin to drop out of the alphabet and their one-second pulse is replaced by an image without a sign. The first to go is X, replaced by a fire; a little later Z is replaced by waves breaking backwards. Once an image is replaced, it will always have the same substitution....On the other hand, the signs are different in every cycle.
"The substitution process sets in action a guessing game and a timing device. Since the letters seen to disappear roughly in inverse proportion to their distribution as initial letters of words in English, the viewer can with occassional accuracy guess which letter will drop out next. He also suspects that when the alphabet has been completely replaced, the film or the section will end.
"A second timing mechanism exists within the substitution images themselves, and it gains force as the alphabetic cycles come to an end. Some of the substitution images imply their own termination. The tying of shoes which replaces P, the washing of hands (G), the changing of a tire (T), and especially the filling of the frame with dried beans (M) add a time dimension essentially different from that of the waves, or a static tree (F), a red ibis flapping its wings (B), or cat-tails swaying in the wind (Y). The clocking mechanism of the finite acts is confirmed by the synchronous drive toward completion which becomes evident in the last minutes of the section.
"In an elaborate set of notes on the film and its generating formulas, Frampton even describes its structure as autobiographical, the three parts corresponding to his Judeo-Christian upbringing, his development from being a poet to a filmmaker while living in New York City, which is the background of the signs and replacements, and finally a prophecy of his move to the country. He lists the criteria for choosing the
replacements as:
1. Banality. Exceptions: S, C (animal images);
2. 'sculptural' as distinct from 'painterly' (as in word-images) work being done, i.e. illusion of space or substance consciously entered and dealt with, as against mimesis of such action. Exceptions D,K (cutting cookies, digging a hole) ;
3. Cinematic or para-cinematic reference, however oblique. To my mind any phenomena is para-cinematic if it shares one element with cinema, e.g. modularity with respect to space or time.
Consider also the problems of alternating scale, and maintaining the fourfold HOPI analysis: CONVERGENT VS. NON-CONVERGENT/RHYTHMIC VS. ARHYTHMIC.
"In the final section the visual pulse shifts to the aural level as six women recite the translation of Grosseteste's "On Light, or the Ingression of Forms" in phrases one second apiece. His decision to allow one second to be the pulse of his film . attempts to replace Kubelka's reduction to the metric of the machinery (the single frame) with an arbitrary tempo. This is one of several totalizations and parodies of the quests of the graphic film in ZORNS LEMMA. The blank screen of the opening section had been oner, secondly by mixing flat collages with the actual street signs in the middle section, he compounded the paradoxes of reading and depth perception that the graphic fil inherited from Leger, and which Landow explored in his participatory film.
"In ZORNS LEMMA Frampton followed the tactics of his two elected literary masters, Jorge Luis Borges and Ezra Pound. From Borges he learned the art of labyrinthine construction and the dialectic of presenting and obliterating the self. Following Pound, Frampton has incorporated in the end of his film a crucial indirect allusion: it is to the paradox of ARNULF RAINER's reduction. In Grosseteste's essay, materiality is the final dissolution, or the point of weakest articulation, of pure light.
But in the graphic cinema that vector is reversed. In the quest for sheer materiality --for an image that would be, and not simply represent -- the artist seeks endless refinement of light itself. As the choral text moves from Neo-Platonic source-light to the grosser impurities of objective reality, Frampton slowly opens the shutter, washing out his snowscape into the untinted v/hiteness of the screen.
"ZORNS LEMMA takes its title from set theory, where it seems that 'every partially ordered set contains a maximal fully ordered subset.' The units of one second each, the alphabets, and the replacement images are ordered sets within the film. Our perception of the film is a participation in the discovery of the ordering..."
--P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film
This is made possible in part by grants from the national Endowment for the Arts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Howard Heinz Endowment.
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