The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Author: DC (Page 3 of 979)

Spotlight on … Ishmael Reed The Last Days of Louisiana Red (1974)


‘”The crows have left,” Ishmael Reed said, explaining the chorus of songbirds. It was a clear spring day in Oakland, California, and I had just sat down with Reed, his wife, Carla Blank, and their daughter Tennessee in the family’s back yard. The eighty-three-year-old writer looked every inch “Uncle Ish,” as he’s known on AOL: sunglasses, New Balances, a Nike windbreaker, and an athletic skullcap covering his halo of dandelion-seed white hair. He described his war against the neighborhood crows with mischievous satisfaction, as though it were one of his many skirmishes with the New York literary establishment.

‘“They had a sentinel on the telephone wire,” he said, and were chasing away the other birds. But Reed learned to signal with a crow whistle—three caws for a predator, four for a friend, he inferred—well enough to manipulate the murder. Before long, he said, “they thought I was a crow.” Now the songbirds were back. The four of us paused to take in their music, a free-verse anthology of avian lyric. When Blank mentioned that a hummingbird frequented the garden, I wondered aloud why the Aztecs had chosen the bird as an emblem of their war god. Reed answered instantly: “They go right for the eyes.”

‘Ishmael Reed has outwitted more than crows with his formidable powers of imitation. For half a century, he’s been American literature’s most fearless satirist, waging a cultural forever war against the media that spans a dozen novels, nine plays and essay collections, and hundreds of poems, one of which, written in anticipation of his thirty-fifth birthday, is a prayer to stay petty: “35? I ain’t been mean enough . . . Make me Tennessee mean . . . Miles Davis mean . . . Pawnbroker mean,” he writes. “Mean as the town Bessie sings about / ‘Where all the birds sing bass.’ ”

‘His brilliantly idiosyncratic fiction has travestied everyone from Moses to Lin-Manuel Miranda, and laid a foundation for the freewheeling genre experiments of writers such as Paul Beatty, Victor LaValle, and Colson Whitehead. Yet there’s always been more to Reed than subversion and caricature. Laughter, in his books, unearths legacies suppressed by prejudice, élitism, and mass-media coöptation. The protagonist of his best-known novel, “Mumbo Jumbo,” is a metaphysical detective searching for a lost anthology of Black literature whose discovery promises the West’s collapse amid “renewed enthusiasms for the Ikons of the aesthetically victimized civilizations.”

‘It’s a future that Reed has worked tirelessly to realize. Mastermind of a decades-long insurgency of magazines, anthologies, small presses, and nonprofit foundations, he’s led the fight for an American literature that is truly “multicultural”—a term that he did much to popularize, before it, too, was coöpted. Through it all, Reed has asserted the vitality of America’s marginalized cultures, especially those of working-class African Americans. “We do have a heritage,” he once thundered. “You may think it’s scummy and low-down and funky and homespun, but it’s there. I think it’s beautiful. I’d invite it to dinner.”

‘Many writers of Reed’s age and accomplishment would already have settled into a leisurely circuit of dinners in their honor. But he’s proudly bitten the hands that do such feeding. Several years ago, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a longtime booster of Reed’s fiction, proposed writing the introduction for a Library of America edition of his novels. Reed, who considers Gates the unelected “king” of Black arts and scholarship, mocked the offer by demanding a hundred-thousand-dollar fee for the privilege.

‘“The fool can say things about the king that other people can’t,” Reed told me. “That’s the role I’ve inherited.”’ — Julian Lucas



Ishmael Reed @ Wikipedia
Konch Magazine
Mumbo Jumbo: a dazzling classic finally gets the recognition it deserves
Ishmael Reed Gets the Last Laugh
Ishmael Reed, The Art of Poetry No. 100
Ishmael Reed@ goodreads
Curating the New York School – Ishmael Reed
‘On Tokens and Tokenism’
The Ishmael Reed Papers
Writing Without Permission: A Conversation with Ishmael Reed
Super Bowl Insurrection: A Conversation with Ishmael Reed
The Critical Reception of Ishmael Reed
John A. Williams: Ishmael Reed, The Man Who Defied the Formula
Neo-HooDoo, in Words and Music
Ishmael Reed’s Undying Faith in Diversity and Multiculturalism
Ishmael Reed and the postmodern slave narrative
Postmodernism, Ethnicity and Underground Revisionism In Ishmael Reed
Ishmael Reed on the Language of Huck Finn
Exit West: An Interview with Ishmael Reed
Audio: Ismael Reed on Bookworm
Ishmael Reed Tries to Undo the Damage ‘Hamilton’ Has Wrought


Hands of Grace

‘Ishmael Reed has been renowned as a novelist, poet, and playwright for more than half a century, yet his progress in the music world came more slowly. Introduced to jazz music in the front room of a bootlegger’s house at age four, Reed has been immersed in the genre his whole life. He would later tell Max Roach that bebop kept him and his friends out of reform school because they were too busy listening to records to get into trouble. Reed first recorded in the early 1980s, performing vocals and recitations alongside Conjure, a supergroup of jazz musicians—including Allen Toussaint, Olu Dara, Taj Mahal, and David Murray, among others—that Kip Hanrahan, of American Clavé Records, had assembled to arrange music for Reed’s poetry. “But I wanted to apply my ‘sensibility’ to more than songwriting,” Reed later said. “I found that lyrics ranked second to music, and though I had written the songs and poetry, the famous performers had a higher status than the writers.” And so, at the age of 60, he began to study jazz piano seriously. In 2007, a cancer diagnosis motivated him to assemble an ad hoc group and record a collection of jazz standards, For All We Know. Fifteen years later, he finally steps out as a composer on The Hands of Grace, a sweetly earnest and stirringly beautiful collection of jazz tunes for piano and ensemble.’ — Matthew Blackwell



Ishmael Reed at the Brockport Writers Forum

Ishmael Reed in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

A Lecture on Ishmael Reed’s “Neo-HooDoo Manifesto”

To Become A Writer, Ishmael Reed




REGINALD MARTIN: Camus wrote in “Neither Victims nor Executioners” that the only really committed artist is he who, without refusing to take part in the combat, at least refuses to join the regular armies and remains a freelance. In many respects, I see you that way, but many of your critics, Houston Baker, Jr., and Addison Gayle, Jr., for example, seem to throw out any possibility that issues they support may also be issues that you equally support.
ISHMAEL REED: I saw Houston Baker, Jr., recently in Los Angeles. I don’t bear any ill feelings toward him. In fact, he was very cordial toward me. I feel that the piece published in “Black American Literature Forum” that was edited by Joel Weixlmann was irresponsible, and my point is that they would never attack white writers the way they do black writers in that magazine, and I still maintain that. All these scurrilous charges that Baraka made against black writers—and I’ve discussed this with Baraka—those charges were outrageous—he called them traitors, capitulationists.

RM: Did you see Baraka’s recent piece on PBS in which was outlined his recent battles with police, where they accused him of beating his wife in his car, when they were just having a domestic argument, disagreement—
IR: That kind of thing happens to black people every day in this country, and they don’t receive that kind of sentence he did, which was to go to prison on the weekends; I think he lectured there—an outside lecturer.

RM: What did Norman Mailer receive for stabbing his wife with a pen knife?
IR: Well, they all like that, they all love that kind of stuff in New York. This Son-of-Sam syndrome, where, I guess, this comes from an interest in Russian psychology, Russian literature, this Raskolnikov notion, that there are some people superior to other people, that Dostoyevsky trip, you know, and that these people are above the kind of rules that apply to you and me. And I think that people who indulge in bizarre behavior are existential heroes, like Jack Abbott, Gilmore, I think even Baraka had that kind of role in cultural hero. As a matter of fact, there was someone in France recently, and the Mitterand government intervened to get him out of jail, a poet, or so he called himself a poet, and he went out and robbed a bank again or something. I don’t know, there’s this fascination with this kind of character. And I feel that that is just a kind of an Eastern, Manhattan, intellectual obsession.

RM: Addison Gayle, Jr., speaks critically about your perception of the relations between black men and women when he reviews “Flight to Canada” in relation to “Eva’s Man” by Gayl Jones. He writes: “Reed, of course, is an anomaly, and if much of his fiction, “Louisiana Red” and “Flight to Canada”, proves anything, it is that black women have no monopoly on demons, real or imaginative. These two novels demonstrate that, like the ‘buyer’ in “Caracas,” like blacks in general, male and female, the web of folklore which has circumscribed much of our relations with each other from the days of slavery to the present time, have been impervious to the best efforts of conscientious men and women to tear it down. Thus, Reed’s central argument, as developed in both “Louisiana Red” and “Flight to Canada,” may be summed up thusly: since the days of slavery, collusion between black women and white men has existed in America. The major objective of this collusion has been the castrating of black males and the thwarting of manful rebellion.”
IR: Well, I think that anybody who reads that ought to go and read his autobiography, “The Wayward Child,” and pick up on some of his notions on black women and white women. As I said in a letter to “Nation” magazine recently, women in general make out better in my books than black men do in the works of black women and white women, feminist writers. And I gave the example of Gayl Jones’s “Eva’s Man”—not to mention “Corregidora”—in which black men are portrayed as brutes, apes, but also Toni Morrison’s “Sula,” in which the character Jude is burned alive by his mother, something I had heard of in black culture. And Alice Walker’s fascination with incest—which can always get you over, if you have the hint of incest. I mean, it got Ellison over; there are a lot of male critics who are interested in that, who are interested in black male sexual behavior—they’re fascinated. There was recently a review on Louis Harlan’s book on Booker T. Washington, by Malcolm Boyd—he used to be a hippie preacher or something; I don’t know what he’s doing now. And he spent a whole lot of the book—he spent the whole article on this story about Booker T. Washington being caned for knocking on a white woman’s door or something like that. Of all the things Booker T. Washington had done! This man was just fascinated with this. He spent three or four paragraphs talking just about that! So there’s an obvious fascination with incest and rape, and Alice Walker picks up on things like this. I tried to get my letter published in “Nation” magazine. I finally had to go to the American Civil Liberties Union here in northern California to get my reply published to what I considered to be a hatchet job done by Stanley Crouch. He had all the facts about my career and publishing activities wrong. They see Al Young and myself as leaders of some multicultural revolt threatening the things they’re doing—against their interests. But in “Nation” I wrote that the same charges that Alice Walker makes against black men were made about the Jews in Germany. I guess we don’t have a large organization like the Anti-Defamation League or a large pressure group or lobby—

RM: Then it goes without saying that these people—not just the black critics but all critics—invent things that they say make up the black aesthetic, in fact that becomes a limiting label.
IR: They haven’t investigated Afro-American folklore, nor have they investigated voodoo. I call it Neo-HooDooism. So there’s a reference that goes back to shed light on the aesthetic I’m working out, which I consider to be the true Afro-American aesthetic. When I say Afro-American aesthetic, I’m not just talking about us, you know, I’m talking about the Americas. People in the Latin countries read my books because they share the same international aesthetic that I’m into and have been into for a long time. And it’s multicultural. The West’s Afro-American aesthetic is multicultural—it’s not black. That’s what they don’t understand. This black aesthetic thing is a northern, urban, academic movement—that’s why you have a fancy word like “aesthetic”, which nobody figures out. When you come to talk about standards of taste, everyone differs. It’s a vague enough word so that they can get away with it. And even though they try to make it sound like it’s really important—that’s the black intellectual pastime—discussing all these phantoms and things. You look at all these conferences for a hundred years, same questions.

RM: That was a great Chester Himes quotation that you included in “Shrovetide,” to the effect that he had searched all his life to find one place in the world where he did not have to be a nigger, only to find that there is no such place. And that he could have just developed his writing wherever he was and marketed it to those who were interested.
IR: Well, I think that the black male is a pariah all over the world—well, maybe not all over the world, but it seems in my experience that in South America, the United States, places like that, the black male is a pariah. That also gives you an advantage. Because there’s a certain desperation, a certain creativeness, originality, that comes from being at the bottom. A lot of our great art comes from the Afro-American male experience. Just think of all the great male jazz musicians. They’re innovators, these guys are hungry, Louis Armstrong and those guys were really hungry, they’re originals; and look at all the black males in politics now; all the feminists are criticizing black males now, black feminists and white feminists, but they got all their strategies from black men. The black males are the ones whose strategies are used all over the world—Martin Luther King in Ireland, Russia, these Pentecostalists in Russia singing “We Shall Overcome.” So black men are geniuses, and many times their desperation, their position as being pariahs, leads them to great originality. I heard a black female pianist who is a real man-hater, I think, but all the pieces she was playing were by Bud Powell and Monk. So that’s very important. But I don’t think you hear much about the black aesthetic anymore. Blacks are probably more American than any other group here. I know that a lot of blacks have Native American ancestry—I know I do, and it’s something to be paid more attention to. You see, this black aesthetic thing was not scientific, as I guess a lot of things which came from the English department are not. Social sciences are not—but this black aesthetic was a classic example in imprecision. Because Africans do not consider Afro-Americans in this country to be really black, because their ancestry is so mixed up—you know, Indian, European, African—so actually one could say that by singling out one part of your ancestry and labeling that might be considered racist. So that’s why I was always intrigued that these professors who are supposed to be scientists would try to peddle that.

RM: You said earlier that the writing going on now cannot really be called a black aesthetic; it’s much more diffuse—
IR: I don’t know about aesthetic. I think people are going to write anyway. Aesthetic is like the Holy Ghost or something. People are just going to write.

RM: The subtext of “Mumbo Jumbo” seems to be saying that “there are many aesthetics in the world, lots of ways of doing things, and mine is just as good as yours—maybe better.”
IR: The thing about the Afro-American aesthetic is that they can prove that it is an aesthetic. The thing that became the settler phase of America is just a phase. The European phase in the Americas is coming to an end, and that’s why there’s all this paranoia and retrenchment mentality, and the so-called “back to basics” movement, which means we should emphasize American and European history. The president of Tufts—amazing for someone who runs a sophisticated, modern university—a woman, right?—trivialized African studies, saying it was like “basket weaving” or something, and how we ought to stick with “our” civilization. This is a big misunderstanding that the fundamentalists have in this country, cultural fundamentalists: that America is an extension of European civilization. A lot of people who should know better say things like this, like Chicano intellectuals I’ve talked to speak of “Latin” America, and there’s just as much African influence on South America as any other. The thing about the voodoo aesthetic is that it’s multicultural and it can absorb, while the settler thing is monotheistic and nonabsorptive. In other words, if you’re not on my side, I can do anything I want to do with you. Those are the forces that come together in “Mumbo Jumbo.”

RM: Would you trace voodoo from West Africa to the Caribbean, to New Orleans and up the river, or would you say it starts in the Caribbean?
IR: I think Haiti is internationally recognized as the origin of voodoo. I’ve decided that gospel music is just a front for voodoo. Mahalia Jackson had a difficult time getting her brand of gospel over to the orthodox ministers. And I think when they’re praising Jesus, they’re really singing about Legba or someone like that . . . Damballah. The rhythms are voodoo. The genius of voodoo is its camouflage. I’ll give you a very amusing example. In the 1960s, everyone was into these amulets, and in the 1960s I had a black ebony cross made up for me—not the Greek cross—and I was in Washington, D.C. staying at the hotel Intrigue—”Intrigue,” strange—but this Christian delegation was getting on the elevator and they said, “Are you with us brother?” And that shows the genius of it right there. It has elements that appeal to everyone.

RM: Some Afro-Americans who are interested in literature are turned off by your perceived liberal stances. What do you think about that?
IR: I think Afro-Americans as a group are probably very conservative. I think they are very suspicious of what has been called the avant-garde. Now, what I’m doing is not avant-garde, but a classical Afro-American form. And it’s been beaten out of them. They’re supposed to hate that, shun it, fear it. So I think that’s one of the problems. They used to say the same thing about Miles Davis thirty years ago. They thought bebop was crazy. They said that about all the jazz greats. So they don’t say you’re crazy anymore, but black men don’t have any credibility in this country. We steal, we mug, all the stereotypes.

RM: In “Flight to Canada,” you continually attack the term “universal.” Would you define the term “universal” as it applies to a criticism of literature?
IR: Well, it’s not a criticism of literature. Lorenzo Thomas tracked the term “universal” to Tolstoy’s essay on art, in which he says that universal art is the art of the people. The other art is landlord art: ballet. They got it all wrong, and they use the term to dismiss works which they consider too local or too ethnic, critics from the East. Someone was telling me that a great book would never be written in Yiddish, and then about six months later, Isaac Singer won the Nobel Prize for literature. I think if Faulkner had been a black writer, he would have been considered ethnic. I would say 60 percent of Faulkner’s work is written in black English. People just seem to be blinded to reality when it comes to dismissing languages. I don’t think there is any standard English. I think there is such a thing as protocol English.



Ishmael Reed The Last Days of Louisiana Red
Columbia University Press

‘When Papa LaBas (private eye, noonday HooDoo, and hero of Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo) comes to Berkeley, California, to investigate the mysterious death of Ed Yellings, owner of the Solid Gumbo Works, he finds himself fighting the rising tide of violence propagated by Louisiana Red and those militant opportunists, the Moochers.

‘A HooDoo detective story and a comprehensive satire on the explosive politics of the ’60s, The Last Days of Louisiana Red exposes the hypocrisy of contemporary American culture and race politics.’ — UoCP




p.s. Hey. ** rigby, Happy not so new year to you too, rigby! My birthday was very warm gray compared to your current circumstances, but I was good with it. Thank you a lot for your great part in the tribute to Joe. Yes, dryness galore to you, pal. ** Misanthrope, Thanks, man. It was a nice b’day. I’m good with it. Happy reading and, I imagine, working. ** Minet, Hi. I love ‘comrade’. Oh, gosh, I’ll have to go back and look more closely even to pick faves, but I was honestly blown away across the board. The art world, or parts of it, actually pays pretty close attention to artists showing their stuff on Instagram. They just have to know where to look. I’ll slip in recommendations to my connections when I can. I was actually pleasantly surprised by what you managed to make AI do. Your wiliness is impressive. No, I never met Guibert. My Paris time didn’t coincide with his being alive, or I guess a couple of visits did, but I don’t think I knew his work then or else just never imagined he would be interested to meet. I don’t now if Dustan and Guibert knew each other, but I can only imagine they would have really hated each other if they did. Bon Wednesday. ** CAUTIVOS, Thank you, sir. Uh, my books are published by a bunch of presses in different countries. In the US, Soho Press did ‘I Wished’. The others were from Grove Press, Harper Perennial, and a couple of others. In France it’s Editions POL. In the US, it has changed a fair amount, although Grove Press published all of my earlier books. In France it’s been POL from the beginning. I suspect your book isn’t in English? If it is, I’d love to read it. Sales don’t say anything about a book’s value, that’s for sure. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Thank you, thank you! Yes, I’m going to LA on Sunday, staying until Feb. 9th, although that return date might change. I’d be over the moon if either Robin Zander or Robert Pollard sang happy birthday to me. Maybe love could arrange a duet? Thank you! Love not letting me waste all my time playing games on the Nintendo Switch I got for my birthday yesterday, although it wouldn’t be wasted, G. ** T. J., Thank you so much! ** Jack Skelley, Ha ha, if only, dude, if only. Love in gargantuan form back to you, J. ** David Ehrenstein, I fall into the strung out camp, I guess. ** scunnard, Thank you very much, Jared. ** Montse, Hi, Montse! I ate nachos, which were kind of like a busted, non-sweet cake. Thank you for the vibes. We need them. No way, Boy Harsher is reading ‘The Sluts’? That’s amazing! Wow! That’s crazy! Thank you for telling me that. Wow! I’m pretty sure we’ll be heavily involved in editing the film when Primavera happens, but, oh, that would be so nice. You going? Anyone particularly exciting playing this year? Yes, come to Paris! I’ll try to let you know when we’ll be back. End of April is an early guess. Caesar wrote to you in the comments if you didn’t see it. Lots of love to you and the mighty Xet! ** Sypha, Thank you, James! ** Tosh Berman, I just read what you wrote about Jun Togawa the other day, which is what brought her back to mind and back into my playlist. Thanks, T. ** Steve Erickson, Thanks a lot, Steve. Togawa is wonderful. See what you think. ** _Black_Acrylic, I’m happy you found him/it of interest. I still haven’t seen ‘Vortex’, weird. I really need to. ** Jamie, Hi, J. I’m so happy you brought some Frampton into your day. I think he’s a total genius. My b’day was pretty normal until I had a nice dinner with pals. Philosophical is the way to go. That’s what got me through mine at least. Cool about the Akerman, and its reception. She’s actually a viral thing right now. It’s crazy. Happy you’re writing, obvs. We’re in a rough patch with the film, but I think when we get to LA, we can get past it and into the good stuff. I hope. I saw a mosquito in my kitchen the other day, shockingly. If they start surviving winter, we’re all fucked. I hope your Wednesday lacks buzz of that brand. Immediately thinking of Wim Wenders’s ‘Million Dollar Hotel’ which is definitely, definitely not good love, Dennis ** Daniel, Aw, thanks, Daniel. Superb day to you, maestro. ** Philip Hopbell, Hi! Thank you for the reassurance. It’s a little daunting to turn this age to say the least. You met Frampton? Wow, I’m super impressed. He’s a serious god to me. Thank you so much for coming in here and saying that, Philip. Obviously, feel very free to come back anytime. ** Robert, I hope you like his stuff. Needless to say ‘Bernhard-y’ is an immensely intriguing descriptor. Heavy encouragement from me. I have three siblings: two brothers and one sister. I’m the oldest. You? ** Derek McCormack, Thank you, thank you, oh great friend and hero!!!!! ** Alex Beaumais, Hi! Thank you very much, Alex. I’m proud to have had your book on my blog. In fact, I have a copy of it right here within eyesight on my immediately to read pile. Take care. ** Dom Lyne, Thanks, Dom. Warmest hugs right back at you. ** Charalampos Tzanakis, Thank you very much, CT. No, I didn’t listen to my favorite songs. I should have. Cool, I listen to ‘Talby’ all the time. Pinback are so, so, so underrated. ** Billy, Many, many thanks to you, Billy. I hope your day had an inordinately fun aspect. ** Caesar, Thank you, C! Yeah, ‘IaGC’ is intense, no? I’m glad you got to see it. No, I actually lived near Cortazar’s apartment. Well, if it helps, being in the ‘profession’ of experimental fiction writer is definitely not a money maker either. Yes, my collaborator Zac and I are shooting our new film in March. Luckily, I’m not a fan of resting. Otherwise I would be a bit insane at the moment. Right, you’re in summer. I’m happy to share some of our cold and rain if I can figure out how to do that. ** James, Thank you, James. No, no cake, just nachos. After that I was too full. Love, me. ** l@rst, Thanks, big l. And excellent about the clever library. ** politekid, Hi, Oscar! Thank you very kindly, my pal. And thank you for the link/gift. You know me so well, ha ha. I’m glad you survived the mega-shift. Kind of a nice term. ** alex, Thank you very, very much, Alex. ** h now j, Thank you! It was alright, all in all. Yesterday, I mean. Hugs! ** Billy, Ha ha, awesome that I flummoxed Chat GPT. Gold star for me. Someone for sure will make a transgressive version, don’t you think? ** rafe, That thing you made is great! Thank you a lot for letting me peep at it. I hope today rules on your end. ** Damien Ark, You’re way not too late, and thank you, Damien! ** Brian, Hi, Brian! Thank you, pal. Let me know how you and yours are doing when letting me know feels like an interesting to do. ** ellie, Hey! Wow, that’s completely gorgeous! Thank you, wow! You don’t mind if I click and drag it into my private computer screen realm? It’s beautiful! Love, me. ** Paul Curran, Thanks, Paul! Definitely on the Japan trip. Man oh man. The second that time allows! Elephantine love, me. ** Nick., Hi, Nick! The day itself was kind of average, but then some friends and I ate nachos, and I got a few gifts including a Nintendo Switch which I’ve been dying for and procrastinating about buying for, like, four years. So, not bad. Your satellite day of my b’day sounds enviable. I decided to live a daring life when I was about 12, but I don’t think I went on a big adventure until I was 15 when this boy I was, whatever, ‘dating’ and I decided to take LSD 24 hours a day for a month, which led to me having a massive mental breakdown, and I really don’t recommend it, but it was .. an adventure. Nothing to lose is a good motto, or, well, not always — see my LSD story — but yeah. I think my favorite ever concert was seeing Gang of Four right after their first album ‘Entertainment!’ came out. I went kind of nuts, in the good way. What’s yours? Great to talk with you as always. ** ShadeoutMapes:v, It wasn’t bad, thanks! I’m going to look up George Pell, because I’m blanking, but congratulations! Publishing books is cool, but not publishing them can be just as cool. And as someone who quit college after one year, I can assure you that an awesome life is fully possible without that. What you write about ‘broken’ makes absolute sense. I used that term way too lazily. Sometimes the p.s. makes me write faster than I think. Mm, as someone who was for a long time, and may still be, pretty ignored, looked down upon, etc., it’s amazing what can happen when you end up finding the right people here and there to repopulate your world. I was a really messed up person when I was young, and I never would have ever imagined what’s happened to me happening. I still sort of can’t believe it. So, don’t give up on believing that life can totally surprise you, I guess. I haven’t ever investigated Sinead O’Connor apart from the obvious stuff of hers that you hear casually. I’ll make it a point to dig further into her stuff. Your rant, which wasn’t even a rant, hit nothing but high marks. ** malcolm, Hi, malcolm! How’s it? Frampton is a huge favorite and hero of mine. I hope his work infiltrates you. No, my b’day was nice. It was good. I was just being a dreading grump. How are you? What are you working on? ** Okay. I was in the mood to read Ishmael Reed the other day because his early novels are so rambunctious and fantastic. I’ve already done posts on his best, in my opinion, novels ‘The Free-lance Pallbearer’ and ‘Mumbo Jumbo’, so I decided to spotlight my third favorite of his novels, which right up there. See what you think. See you tomorrow.

Happy birthday to me: Hollis Frampton Day *



‘Among the most widely seen photographs of Hollis Frampton is one of him as a young man, a self-portrait taken in 1959, if we are to trust the narration he composed to accompany its inclusion in his 1971 film (nostalgia). In the image, Frampton sits against a neutral backdrop, looking to his right, as if intently scrutinizing something just outside the frame. His shoulders press forward, suggesting that his unseen hands are resting crossed in his lap, and he sports a neat dark jacket and tie, their conservatism offset by a beatniky beard and hair that would have been considered longish in the 1950s, combed back into a Victorian wave. “As you see, I was thoroughly pleased with myself at the time, presumably for having survived to such ripeness and wisdom, since it was my twenty-third birthday,” the narrator says in (nostalgia). “I focused the camera, sat on a stool in front of it, and made the exposures by squeezing a rubber bulb with my right foot.”

‘When he took this photo, Frampton was working as an assistant in a commercial photography studio in New York, where he had moved the previous year, and was sharing an apartment with sculptor Carl Andre, who had been his high school classmate at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts (as had painter Frank Stella, with whom they would share studio space). Due to his dispute over the necessity of a required history course, Frampton had failed to graduate from Andover, thus forfeiting a scholarship to Harvard and instead attending Western Reserve College in Cleveland. While there, he struck up a correspondence with Ezra Pound, who was then a mental patient at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital in Washington, D.C. Frampton—who was writing poetry at the time—left Cleveland to move near Pound, visiting him daily in the hospital, while the older poet continued to compose The Cantos, his sprawling epic, dense with reference and allusion, which would remain unfinished at his demise. Pound’s high modernism would serve as a touchstone for Frampton, as would the parallel modernisms of Marcel Duchamp, Jorge Luis Borges, and James Joyce. Ironically, Frampton, too, would embark upon an ambitious, large-scale project—the proposed thirty-six-hour film cycle Magellan—that would be cut short by his death from cancer in 1984, at age forty-eight.

‘Another oft reproduced image of Frampton is entitled Portrait of Hollis Frampton by Marion Faller, Directed by H. F. It was taken in 1975 by Faller, the photographer with whom Frampton lived during the last thirteen years of his life. The picture shows him staring, eyes wide and pupils contracted, almost into the lens of the camera, his hands raised beside his head, palms outward. In the darkness, a horizontal slit of light draws a line across his eyes and onto the middle of both of his hands. His hair is wilder than at age twenty-three—the light beam illuminates shaggy bits jutting out from his temples—and his beard is fuller, now flecked with white. The setup cannily alludes to the mechanics of both photography and cinema, of light projected and recorded, but in its alien strangeness resembles a promotional still from a science-fiction movie. It almost appears as if the light is not so much being thrown on him as projected outward from his eyes and hands. In the earlier self-portrait, Frampton seems relatively staid, as if looking toward the past, trying to emulate an early twentieth-century poise. But here, at age thirty-nine, he stares as if into a vision, ready to walk forward into the unknown, ecstatic.

‘In the time between these two photographs, Frampton had established himself as one of the foremost members of the American avant-garde, part of a new generation of artists who came to fruition in the late 1960s, dramatically shifting the terms of both experimental film and the intellectual thinking on cinema as a whole. By the end of his career, he had completed close to one hundred films (including the individual one-minute Pans for Magellan) and numerous photographic series; helped establish the pioneering Digital Arts Laboratory at the Center for Media Study at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1977; published Circles of Confusion: Film, Photography, Video—Texts 1968–1980, his influential collection of theoretical essays and other writings that had originally run in Artforum, October, and elsewhere; and been honored with retrospectives at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. At a time when many of his filmmaking colleagues still kept their distance from newer electronic media, he not only embraced and wrote about video but also delved into xerography and computer programming.

‘In standard histories of experimental cinema, Frampton’s work is usually considered part of “structural film,” a category invented by P. Adams Sitney in a 1969 essay that would later be revised into a chapter of his landmark 1974 study Visionary Film. Sitney coined the term to describe what he saw as a new tendency in the American avant-garde, typified by the films of Frampton as well as those of Michael Snow, George Landow, Tony Conrad, and others. “Theirs is a cinema of structure,” Sitney wrote, “in which the shape of the whole film is predetermined and simplified, and it is that shape that is the primal impression of the film”—a sharp divergence from the work of an older generation of filmmakers, including Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Kenneth Anger, who, in his view, had progressed over time toward a greater internal complexity of form. He compared structural film to minimalism in the visual arts and serial composition in music, contemporaneous movements that likewise stressed formal reduction and repetition. Frampton, however, rejected Sitney’s periodization, denouncing “that incorrigible tendency to label, to make movements, [which] always has the same effect, and that effect is to render the work invisible.”

‘Nevertheless, Frampton did agree that a new sensibility was afoot. Describing his own development, he recalled that “there was something called the [Film-Makers’] Cinematheque in New York, which became a kind of hangout. I met other people who were trying to make films: Joyce Wieland, Michael Snow, Ken Jacobs, Ernie Gehr after a while, although he was somewhat younger. Later on, Paul Sharits, who was at the time living in Baltimore.” These are all figures whose work Sitney classified under structural filmmaking, but Frampton saw their shared project as a more expansive one. “There existed at least for a time, and that time lasted for some years in New York City, a kind of constant contact between us. One might almost—almost—venture to call it a sense of being united in some way, probably by the conviction that there should be good films. Preferably, films so good they hadn’t been made yet. That the intellectual space open to film had not entirely been preempted.”

‘Regardless of Frampton’s distaste for labels, one can productively think about his films in terms of a simplification of elements in favor of an overall, predetermined shape. This is particularly so in his earliest surviving works, from Information (1966) to Zorns Lemma (1970). In this phase of his filmmaking, Frampton was interested in taking apart cinema by reducing it to its most basic, constitutive parts—sound, image, movement, editing—and then using these elements to construct films whose unfolding takes on the quality of a mathematical formula or puzzle. Later in his career, he would describe his concerns during this formative period as the “rationalization of the history of film art. Resynthesis of the film tradition: ‘making film over as it should have been’” and the “establishment of progressively more complex a priori schemes to generate the various parameters of filmmaking.” His play with the possible relationships between sound and image in works like Maxwell’s Demon (1968), Surface Tension (1968), and Carrots & Peas (1969) would culminate in the abecedarian structure of Zorns Lemma. The films’ titles alone convey his interest in importing concepts from the sciences into art, though never in a straightforward way; he once said, “I’m a spectator of mathematics like others are spectators of soccer or pornography.” His goal was a more epistemological one. “Eventually,” he would later write, “we may come to visualize an intellectual space in which the systems of words and images will both, as [filmmaker, poet, and founder of New York’s Anthology Film Archives] Jonas Mekas once said of semiology, ‘seem like half of something,’ a universe in which image and word, each resolving the contradictions inherent in the other, will constitute the system of consciousness.”

‘To speak of Frampton’s films as merely structural riddles or philosophical proposals, however, fails to take into account their pleasurable and poetic nature. The gamelike qualities of his films prove playful rather than didactic and always retain a residue of enigma. And he is more of a storyteller than the structural label would suggest. His films are told with an erudite wit, an often stark beauty, and deep emotional resonance. This last quality is one that sets him apart from many of his “structural” fellow travelers and is most apparent in his only completed film cycle, Hapax Legomena (1971–72), a seven-part sequence including three of his best-known works, (nostalgia), Poetic Justice (1972), and Critical Mass (1971). Throughout the cycle, Frampton continually reveals intricate relationships between time and memory, word and image. He called the project “an oblique autobiography, seen in stereoscopic focus with the phylogeny of film art as I have tried to recapitulate it during my own fitful development as a filmmaker.” This aspect is most explicit in (nostalgia) but is also evident, in a more buried way, in Critical Mass, which creates hypnotic rhythms from footage of a woman and a man engaged in a heated argument—completed when Frampton was working through the tumultuous end of a six-year marriage.

‘The “phylogeny of film art” that Frampton mentions relates to a further concept underpinning his work as a whole, what he called a “metahistory” of cinema, by which he meant the creation of a specific body of films that would serve as an instructive metaphor for the whole history of film. “The history of cinema consists precisely of every film that has ever been made, for any purpose whatsoever,” he wrote. “The metahistorian of cinema, on the other hand, is occupied with inventing a tradition, that is, a coherent, wieldy set of discrete monuments, meant to inseminate resonant consistency into the growing body of his art. Such works may not exist, and then it is his duty to make them.” His unfinished Magellan project would have been his fullest realization of this concept. Planned around the conceit of Ferdinand Magellan’s global circumnavigation, it was to comprise a liturgical calendar of more than eight hundred films, with Lumière-inspired miniatures on most days and longer works on equinoxes, solstices, and other special dates. Within this solar epic, Frampton envisioned numerous “subsections and epicycles,” completing a macrocosmic engine reminiscent of an astrolabe’s nested gears or a computer program’s subroutines—the latter suggested by Frampton’s dot-matrix-printed schedule from 1978, “CLNDR version 1.2.0,” with each day numbered like a line of code.

‘As Magellan’s algorithmic aspects illustrate, Frampton was concerned not only with cinema’s history but its future as well. In numerous writings, he conjectured that the technology of film had already reached its point of obsolescence, pinpointing this moment at the invention of radar, rather than the more obvious rise of television. The machine age apparatus created by the Lumières and Edison would someday be seen as merely an early phase of an as-yet-unnamed technology of moving-image-making that he would variously term “the camera arts” or “film and its successors” or “photograph-film-video-computer.” And this system was, in turn, an outgrowth of much older forms, like painting and music. He suggested that cinema would endure past its death, albeit transmuted, through this larger trajectory.

‘Or to put it another way, as Frampton did in his notes on Gloria! (1979), a work dedicated to his grandmother: “The last time I saw my grandmother, she said to me: ‘We just barely learn how to live, and then we’re ready to die.’” The film, however, depicts a story based on the ballad “Finnegan’s Wake,” wherein a dead body rises from its casket to dance at its own funeral. Surely, Frampton would have found wry amusement in this collection of his work, which replicates his films via encrypted lines of code and releases them back into the world as digital ghosts.’ — Ed Halter





Hollis Frampton Website
Hollis Frampton @ IMDb
A Hollis Frampton Odyssey @ The Criterion Collection
Hollis Frampton’s Lemon Analysis— The Nature of Film and Vision
Hollis Frampton ou le hors-champ du cinéma : le projet Magellan
A Hollis Frampton Odyssey reviewed @ Slant
Exploded View | Hollis Frampton’s Critical Mass
Pattern Recognition: The Writings of Hollis Frampton
Video: Hollis Frampton interviewed
He’s Got Rhythm: ‘A Hollis Frampton Odyssey’
A Keyboard Mind: Hollis Frampton’s Gloria! as Lyric Poem
The look of the thing: Hollis Frampton’s photography
Letters of Note: For Love and Honor
A Riddle in Temporality: Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia
History and Ambivalence in Hollis Frampton’s Magellan
How Should Artists Be Paid?: Hollis Frampton’s Letter to MoMA and the Price Artists Pay for Autonomy
Hollis frampton UNE CONFÉRENCE
Hollis Frampton Revival
A Pentagram for Conjuring Hollis Frampton
hollis frampton | VISCER-ebr-AL – Objectively Speaking



A documentary on Hollis Frampton made in 1981.

Screening Room with Hollis Frampton – PREVIEW

Hollis Frampton at Chatham College 1971

Michael Snow on Hollis Frampton and Public Speaking

Hollis Frampton Panel


A Lecture
by Hollis Frampton


Please turn out the lights.

As long as we’re going to talk about films, we might as well do it in the dark.

We have all been here before. By the time we are eighteen years old, say the statisticians, we have been here five hundred times.

No, not in this very room, but in this generic darkness, the only place left in our culture intended entirely for concentrated exercise of one, or at most two, of our senses.

We are, shall we say, comfortably seated. We may remove our shoes, if that will help us to remove our bodies. Failing that, the management permits us small oral distractions. The oral distractions concession is in the lobby.

So we are suspended in a null space, bringing with us a certain habit of the affections. We have come to do work that we enjoy. We have come to watch this.

The projector is turned on.

So and so many kilowatts of energy, spread over a few square yards of featureless white screen in the shape of a carefully standardized rectangle, three units high by four units wide.

The performance is flawless. The performer is a precision machine. It sits behind us, out of sight usually. Its range of action may be limited, but within that range it is, like an animal, infallible.

It reads, so to speak, from a score that is both the notation and the substance of the piece.

It can and does repeat the performance, endlessly, with utter exactitude.

Our rectangle of white light is eternal. Only we come and go; we say: This is where I came in. The rectangle was here before we came, and it will be here after we have gone.

So it seems that a film is, first, a confined space, at which you and I, we, a great many people, are staring.

It is only a rectangle of white light. But it is all films. We can never see more within our rectangle, only less.

A red filter is placed before the lens at the word “red.”

If we were seeing a film that is red, if it were only a film of the color red, would we not be seeing more?


A red film would subtract green and blue from the white light of our rectangle.

So if we do not like this particular film, we should not say: There is not enough here, I want to see more. We should say: There is too much here, I want to see less.

The red filter is withdrawn.

Our white rectangle is not “nothing at all.” In fact, it is, in the end, all we have. That is one of the limits of the art of film.

So if we want to see what we call more, which is actually less, we must devise ways of subtracting, of removing, one thing and another, more or less, from our white rectangle.

The rectangle is generated by our performer, the projector, so whatever we devise must fit into it.

Then the art of making films consists in devising things to put into our projector.

The simplest thing to devise, although perhaps not the easiest, is nothing at all, which fits conveniently into the machine.

Such is the film we are now watching. It was devised several years ago by the Japanese filmmaker Takehisa Kosugi.

Such films offer certain economic advantages to the filmmaker.

But aside from that, we must agree that this one is, from an aesthetic point of view, incomparably superior to a large proportion of all films that have ever been made.

But we have decided that we want to see less than this.

Very well.

A hand blocks all light from the screen.

We can hold a hand before the lens. This warms the hand while we deliberate on how much less we want to see.

Not so much less, we decide, that we are deprived of our rectangle, a shape as familiar and nourishing to us as that of a spoon.

The hand is withdrawn.

Let us say that we desire to modulate the general information with which the projector bombards our screen. Perhaps this will do.

A pipe cleaner is inserted into the projector’s gate.

That’s better.

It may not absorb our whole attention for long, but we still have our rectangle, and we can always leave where we came in.

The pipe cleaner is withdrawn.

Already we have devised four things to put into our projector.

We have made four films.

It seems that a film is anything that may be put in a projector that will modulate the emerging beam of light.

For the sake of variety in our modulations, for the sake of more precise control of what and how much we remove from our rectangle, however, we most often use a specifically devised material called: film.

Film is a narrow transparent ribbon of any length you please, uniformly perforated with small holes along its edges so that it may be handily transported by sprocket wheels. At one time, it was sensitive to light.

Now, preserving a faithful record of where that light was, and was not, it modulates our light beam, subtracts from it, makes a vacancy, a hole, that looks to us like, say, Lana Turner.

Furthermore, that vacancy is doing something: it seems to be moving.

But if we take our ribbon of film and examine it, we find that it consists of a long row of small pictures, which do not move at all.

We are told that the explanation is simple: all explanations are.

The projector accelerates the small still pictures into movement. The single pictures, or frames, are invisible to our failing sense of sight, and nothing that happens on any one of them will strike our eye.

And this is true, so long as all the frames are essentially similar. But if we punch a hole in only one frame of our film, we will surely see it.

And if we put together many dissimilar frames, we will just as surely see all of them separately. Or at least we can learn to see them.

We learned long ago to see our rectangle, to hold all of it in focus simultaneously. If films consist of consecutive frames, we can learn to see them also.

Sight itself is learned. A newborn baby not only sees poorly—it sees upside down.

At any rate, in some of our frames we found, as we thought, Lana Turner. Of course, she was but a fleeting shadow—but we had hold of something. She was what the film was about.

Perhaps we can agree that the film was about her because she appeared oftener than anything else.

Certainly a film must be about whatever appears most often in it.

Suppose Lana Turner is not always on the screen.

Suppose further that we take an instrument and scratch the ribbon of film along its whole length.

Then the scratch is more often visible than Miss Turner, and the film is about the scratch.

Now suppose that we project all films. What are they about, in their great numbers?

At one time and another, we shall have seen, as we think, very many things.

But only one thing has always been in the projector.


That is what we have seen.

Then that is what all films are about.

If we find that hard to accept, we should recall what we once believed about mathematics.

We believed it was about the apples or peaches owned by George and Harry.

But having accepted that much, we find it easier to understand what a filmmaker does.

He makes films.

Now, we remember that a film is a ribbon of physical material, wound up in a roll: a row of small unmoving pictures.

He makes the ribbon by joining large and small bits of film together.

It may seem like pitiless and dull work to us, but he enjoys it, this splicing of small bits of anonymous stuff.

Where is the romance of moviemaking? The exotic locations? The stars?

The film artist is an absolute imperialist over his ribbon of pictures. But films are made out of footage, not out of the world at large.

Again: Film, we say, is supposed to be a powerful means of communication. We use it to influence the minds and hearts of men.

But the artist in film goes on building his ribbon of pictures, which is at least something he understands a little about.

The pioneer brain surgeon Harvey Cushing asked his apprentices: Why had they taken up medicine?

To help the sick.

But don’t you enjoy cutting flesh and bone? he asked them. I cannot teach men who don’t enjoy their work.

But if films are made of footage, we must use the camera. What about the romance of the camera?

And the film artist replies: A camera is a machine for making footage. It provides me with a third eye, of sorts, an acutely penetrating extension of my vision.

But it is also operated with my hands, with my body, and keeps them busy, so that I amputate one faculty in heightening another.

Anyway, I needn’t really make my own footage. One of the chief virtues in so doing is that it keeps me out of my own films.

We wonder whether this interferes with his search for self-expression.

If we dared ask, he would probably reply that self-expression interests him very little.

He is more interested in reconstructing the fundamental conditions and limits of his art.

After all, he would say, self-expression was only an issue for a very brief time in history, in the arts or anywhere else. And that time is about over.

Now, finally, we must realize that the man who wrote the text we are hearing read has more than a passing acquaintance and sympathy with the filmmaker we have been questioning.

For the sake of precision and repeatability, he has substituted a tape recorder for his personal presence—a mechanical performer as infallible as the projector behind us.

And to exemplify his conviction that nothing in art is as expendable as the artist, he has arranged to have his text recorded by another filmmaker, Mr. Michael Snow, whose voice we are hearing now.

If filmmakers seldom appear in their own films, there is ancient precedence of appearing in one another’s works. D. W. Griffith appeared in a work of Porter’s. Fritz Lang appeared in a film of Godard’s. And this is not the first time Mr. Snow and the present writer have reciprocated.

Since the speaker is also a filmmaker, he is fully equipped to talk about the only activity the writer is willing to discuss at present.

There is still time for us to watch our rectangle awhile.

Perhaps its sheer presence has as much to tell us as any particular thing we might find inside it.

We can invent ways of our own to change it.

But this is where we came in.

Please turn on the lights.


28 of Hollis Frampton’s 51 films

A and B in Ontario (1984)
‘“Hollis and I came back to Toronto on holiday in the summer of ’67. We were staying at a friend’s house. We worked our way through the city and eventually made it to the island. We followed each other around. We enjoyed ourselves. We said we were going to make a film about each other – and we did.” – Joyce Wieland A & B in Ontario was completed eighteen years after the original material was shot. After Frampton’s death, the film was assembled by Wieland into a cinematic dialogue in which the collaborators (in the spirit of the sixties) shoot each other with cameras.’ — letterboxd

the entire film


Magellan Cycle (1977 – 1980)
‘Had it been completed, Hollis Frampton’s 369-day-long megamovie Magellan could have been the ultimate structuralist monument. Planned around the conceit of Ferdinand Magellan’s global circumnavigation, Magellan was to comprise a liturgical calendar of approximately 1,000 films, with Lumière-inspired miniatures of just a few minutes screening on most days, and longer works on equinoxes, solstices, and other special dates. Within this solar epic, Frampton envisioned numerous “subsections and epicycles,” completing a macrocosmic engine reminiscent of an astrolabe’s nested gears or a computer program’s subroutines—the latter suggested by Frampton’s dot-matrix-printed schedule created in 1978, “CLNDR version 1.2.0,” each day numbered like a line of code. Like his project’s namesake, Frampton died before reaching his goal, completing only eight out of the proposed 36 hours of film. But these fragments evoke the whole.’ — Village Voice




Gloria! (1979)
‘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.’ — letterboxd

the entire film


Not the First Time (1976)
‘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

the entire film


Autumnal Equinox (1974)
Autumnal Equinox (1974) was shot inside a meat-packing plant, and shot using 30 mm film that contained bovine jelly – further pushing the boundaries of experimental film.’ — collaged

the entire film


Pan (0 – 4) (697 – 700) (1974)
‘Frampton planned for a whopping 720 of these one-minute “Panopticons” to be shown throughout the project. Perhaps something like visual palate cleansers.’ — Martin Teller

Pan (0 – 1)

Pan 2

Pan 3


Winter Solstice (1974)
‘An experimental short by Hollis Frampton who films a couple and their dog as they walk farther away into the woods.’ — IMDb

the entire film


Noctiluca (Magellan’s Toys: #1) (1974)
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

the entire film


Less (1973)
‘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

the entire film


Hapax Legomena II: Poetic Justice (1972)
‘Frampton’s films expose, dismantle, and reorganize the structure of the medium while opening onto numerous branches of knowledge, including natural history, poetry, and linguistic theory. Poetic Justice, the second film in Framptons seven-part series Hapax Lagomena (1971–72), presents the viewer with an ordinary domestic scene: a stack of papers, a cup of coffee, and a potted cactus on a table. The sheets of paper compose a script that provides handwritten, frame-by-frame instructions for a film that unfolds only in the mind of the viewer; with the revelation of each page, the viewer is called upon to mine his or her own inventory of images. The desire to construct a linear narrative is countered by a series of spatial and temporal incongruities that collapse the distinction between filmic space and the physical realm of the viewer.’ — MoMA

the entire film


Poetic Justice (1972)
‘Hollis Frampton’s Poetic Justice cleverly and humorously calls attention to the nature of film itself and its vanity. Essentially, Poetic Justice is a film about what “film” really is. By choosing to depict a “movie” through its screenplay, Hollis Frampton raises the question of representation and the word–image relationship—a topic also extensively explored in Zorns Lemma.’ — Films Lie

the entire film


Apparatus Sum (1972)
‘A brief lyric film of death, which brings to equilibrium a single reactive image from a roomful of cadavers.’ — HF

the entire film


Tiger Balm (1972)
‘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.’ — HF

the entire film


Hapax Legomena I: Nostalgia (1971)
‘”In (nostalgia), Frampton is clearly working with the experience of cinematic temporality. The major structural strategy is a disjunction between sound and image. We see a series of still photographs, most of them taken by Frampton, slowly burning one at a time on a hotplate. On the soundtrack, we hear Frampton’s comments and reminiscences about the photographs. As we watch each photograph burn, we hear the reminiscence pertaining to the following photograph. The sound and image are on two different time schedules. At any moment, we are listening to a commentary about a photograph that we shall be seeing in the future and looking at a photograph that we have just heard about. We are pulled between anticipation and memory. The nature of the commentary reinforces the complexity; it arouses our sense of anticipation by referring to the future; it also reminisces about the past, about the time and conditions under which the photographs were made. The double time sense results in a complex, rich experience.’ — Bill Simon

the entire film


Critical Mass (1971)
‘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

the entire film


Zorns Lemma (1970)
‘Originally starting as a series of photographs, the non-narrative film Zorns Lemma is structured around a 24-letter Latin alphabet. It remains, along with Michael Snow’s Wavelength and Tony Conrad’s The Flicker, one of the best known examples of structural filmmaking. The opening section of Zorns Lemma is 5 minutes long. In it a woman reads an abecedary of 24 couplets from The Bay State Primer, an eighteenth century book designed to teach children the alphabet. The film is entirely black during this section. A letter A stamped on tin foil, the first of 24 such letters shown at the beginning of the second section. The film’s main section is silent and lasts 45 minutes, broken into 2,700 one-second units. It shows the viewer an evolving 24-part “alphabet”. The section begins by presenting each letter typed on a sheet of tin foil. The alphabet is initially composed of words that appear on street signs, photographed in Manhattan. As the film continues to cycle through the alphabet, individual letters are slowly substituted with images. The first four substitutions—fire (x), waves (z), smoke (q), and reeds (y)–depict the four classical elements. The film’s conclusion lasts 10 minutes. It shows a man, woman and dog walking through snow. During this scene, six women’s voices alternate in reading the words of a passage from On Light, or the Ingression of Forms by Robert Grosseteste. The voices read at a rate of one word per second.’ — collaged

the entire film


Artificial Light (1969)
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 talking, drinking wine, laughing, smoking, informally. 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… 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.’ — P. Adams Sitney

the entire film


Carrots & Peas (1969)
‘On the bigger scale, Carrots and Peas is yet another investigation by Frampton of the building elements of cinema. It reflects the structural and post-structural linguistic trends of reduction of the whole into parts. In art, Cubism started by reducing the 3-dimension spatiality to a flat 2-dimension surface, and reducing the larger whole of an object to its building geometry forms. Then Bauhaus took geometry a step further into abstraction and reduction, before abstract expressionism and late minimalist art abolished the “bigger picture” in favor of fragmentation to the building blocks of art—color and simple lines.’ — Films Lie

the entire film


Lemon (1969)
Lemon, ostensibly a one-shot film, representing a radical pairing down of materials and methods: It is silent, static and unedited. This arrestingly spare portrait of a seeming “Superstar Fruit” begins in darkness, as gradually, a Lemon comes into sight. This film shows how Important Lighting can be.’ — TENRAG

the entire film


Palindrome (1969)
‘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.’– collaged

the entire film


Surface Tension (1968)
Surface Tension, as the name suggests, concerns itself with the way objects move on a surface with a varying degree of “film.” Scientifically speaking, the greater the amount of film the more difficult it is for an object to move. In Hampton’s film this is not the case, in fact, it is how he alters the film that allows the material to move in an either slower or faster rate. It is only the sound that seems to move at a consistent pace, but that, arguably, has nothing to do with film and exists on its own plane of experience. Frampton even went so far as to claim that the film was about three separate notions of space, one being comedic, one scientific and a third being something in between. With this in mind it helps explain the three segments of the film, one involving a man talking whilst standing next to a clock. With the sound removed, we are left perplexed over the man’s discussion that is faster than normal and only have the incessant ringing of a phone as comfort. The second section, the scientific portion of the film, follows a camera fast forwarded through the streets as incomprehensible German is dubbed over. We are only able to pull worlds like “chocolat” from the man’s dialogue, which is juxtaposed with incredibly murky water. The final section is of a fish in an aquarium on the beach. The rate of the film is normal this time as we watch the ebb and flow of the tide consume the tank, but never take the fish. Simultaneously words appear on the screen that have no coherent meaning, but appear to refer to the film as a whole in some manner. Neither comedic nor serious, this portion of the film is clearly the hybrid of the previous portions, yet it is always affected by what Frampton has done to intervene with the film stock. Ultimately, the film is book-ended by crashing tides, perhaps suggesting that no amount of intervention can stop surface tension, when the force is greater than the film trying to interfere. A deeply profound commentary on the entire state of filmmaking, particularly considering it is a question film theorist haves struggled over for almost a century. What Frampton does with Surface tension, is definitively answer that question, or at least provide a philosophical positing so grand that to overcome it would be to some extent inconceivable.’ — Cinemalacrum

the entire film


Snowblind (1968)
‘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.” — Hollis Frampton

the entire film


Maxwell’s Demon (1968)
‘Homage to the physicist, James Clerk-Maxwell, father of thermodynamics and analytic color theory, whom I have admired. His famous Demon, mythic and microscopic as Spirochaeta pallida, is a perfectly imaginary being who deals entirely in pure energy.’ — The Film-makers Coop

the entire film


States (1967)
‘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

the entire film


Heterodyne (1967)
‘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.’ — HF

the entire film


Manual of Arms (1966)
‘In this “fourteen-part drill for the camera,” Frampton created a portrait gallery of his art-world friends engaging in a variety of ordinary activities.’ — letterboxd

the entire film


Process Red (1966)
‘The Criterion booklet emphasized the uniformity of hands (holding coffee cups, ashing cigerettes “hand held shots”), saturated with the “color of revolution”. But more immediately to me the timing seemed Brakhage-level perfect in its rhythmic immutability. A series of angular swipes, successively worked to compliment the process of memory. Very propulsive and worth an immediate re-watch.’ — Tedcoolguy7

the entire film


Information (1966)
‘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.’ — HF

the entire film




p.s. Hey. I have a tradition that every year on my birthday I give myself a post-shaped gift that, hopefully, works as a gift to you out there too. In previous years I’ve done a post featuring my favorite songs by my favorite band/artist Guided by Voices/Robert Pollard, a post with my all-time favorite songs in general, a special Robert Bresson Day, and this year I’ve made a post focused on my other all-time favorite filmmaker and a great hero of mine, Hollis Frampton. Here’s hoping you’ll give me the gift of looking through it and, best case scenario, enjoying it yourselves. Thanks a lot! ** Gex, Hi, G! Thank you. Just a bunch of film work and then a cozy dinner with a few pals. No big, A-ok. I hope my b’day brings you good luck! xo ** Kettering, Hi, Kettering. There’s kind of no early or late here, or at least not by the time I open the comments. Sure, you can use my email. Feel free. Thank you so much about Zac’s and my films. I’m so happy to hear that. We’re really excited, and I think ‘Room Temperature’ is going to be amazing, I really do. Or we’ll certainly aim hard for amazingness anyway. Thank you, thank you!!! ** CAUTIVOS, Thanks, I do aim for non-disppointing-ness. I like lots of female singers. Off the top of my head my big faves include Nina Simone, Souxsie Sioux, Cat Power, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Lucinda Williams, Jun Togawa, … lots really. I like jazz, sure. No surprise that I mostly like the more experimental wing. It’s my birthday, yes, for better or worse. Howdy! ** Kirk, Hi, Kirk. Welcome! I’ve never read that Vidal. I should, right? I love your anecdote from it. Thank you! What’s up with you? ** Misanthrope, Lack of sleep can access new aspects of you. Maybe that mistake makes your copy valuable? Shit like that happens. ** Dominik, Hi!!! Thank you, buddy. The interview went really well, and we’ve hired him. Whew! Now if he can only get our budget to work, it’ll be amazing. Fingers still crossed. Mashed potatoes are definitely way up there on the food chain, I agree. I might try to eat some for my birthday. It’s been a long time since I smelled a wet dog, but I think I remember it being kind of a good smell, no? Love putting my aging process into reverse, G. ** l@rst, Happy to spread the good word. Oh, man, so sorry about the death. I hope she’s dealing with it okay, or, well, as okay as possible. Excellent about the Grind thing. Sounds itchy in the good way. Rock on, sir. ** Charalampos Tzanakis, Happy you liked it and can relate via your work. That Sebadoh song is so fucking great. I just listened it full blast two days ago. Have a good 24 hours+. ** David Ehrenstein, Good call! ** _Black_Acrylic, Thank you, B! ‘Squashed tomatoes in stew’? Wow, I’ll eat that. I’ll try to max out my special day. Maybe you can figure out a way to do that too. ** Amphibiouspeter, Hey! Good to see you! It has been too long. Awesome that the post’s timing functioned as an inspiring welcome mat type of thing. Yeah, the google murder sucked, but I’m managing to put all the broken pieces back together here very gradually, and fuck them, etc. I’m inferring from what you wrote that your creative mojo is on the rise again, yes? Hope so. Swansea: I’ve never been there but I’ve always thought that name promised beauty of some sort. Hope to see you again soon. Take care in any case. ** Steve Erickson, No, never taken it. Given that my dreams that I remember are always nightmares, I think I’ll stick to the not remembering. Everyone, Steve has reviewed Margo Price’s new album STRAYS @ Slant Magazine here. I did not know that about a new NP single with Bejar on board. That’s intriguing to say the least. I’ll snatch it. Thanks for the alert. Ha ha. ** Minet, Thank you, thank you! I’ve been going through your visual work, and it’s super incredible. I’m really blown away. I’m already full on addicted and making beelines back into the folder multiple times daily. Amazing. Deep bow. Of course your good thought about my stuff in return means really a lot. Comrades! Very rainy here too. ‘Porcile’ is my favourite Pasolini and not just because my hero Pierre Clementi is in it. Salerno is a very smart guy. I love Kawabata, yes. I love everything I’ve read by him, and I think my favorite is ‘Snow Country’. Um, Dustan didn’t translate ‘My Loose Thread’. That’s weird. He published a book of mine with this press he ran for a while. I only met him once, and he was really weird and kind of a big prima donna. I’ve been living here for … I’m not sure, 15 years maybe? The French are great! I mean, that’s a ridiculous generalisation, obviously, but I find people here to be really cool pretty much to a one. And friendly enough. Not as friendly as people in LA, but enough. Paris is weird
‘cos it’s technically big, but, when you live here, it feels like a small town almost. You can pretty much walk almost anywhere. I hope you get to come back, ideally not during one of our rare but, yes, awful heatwaves. ** Loser, Hi! Yes, thank you for sending your work. I love it. Want to see more. Fluff can be totally genius. And your seriousness as an artist is clear and I second that aspect. And I wouldn’t say your work is fluff anyway. Maybe it has a fluffy beauty, but I feel the depths too. It’s great! No, I was touched to think your Dennis might have anything to do with me, Dennis. And he does. I’m honored. Well, I hope somehow that whatever good vibes my birthday radiates will reach way over to you. ** Bzzt, Hey, Quinn! Wow, it’s been a while. It’s cool to see you! Thanks for the HBD. I’m good, just kind of totally locked into getting the film ready to shoot. It’s very consuming. I’m traveling to LA a lot because we’re shooting there. Going there again this weekend. I think I’m too busy to feel inspired or not right now, but I am working on some fiction at least. I’m glad to hear you’re writing. Joblessness is at least a boon for that. Being a sunny Capricorn, yes, I too feel utterly confident that life will keep you aloft and enthroned. It’s really nice to get to hear how you’re doing. Take care until soon, I hope. ** Caesar, Hi, C. Glad you liked it. Zac and I did shoot a lot of video on your Argentina/Antarctica trip, hm. Maybe someday. Yes, he’s the Zac of my gif novels. He’s their proprietor. I’ve read just a little Ocampo and loved it. I’ll read more. I love Cortazar. I used to live close to his Paris apartment. I do know and like Puig, Rulfo, Sabato, and Saramago. The others I will investigate, thank you! I’m due for a big book shopping trip. Sadly, I think it is hard to make a living as journalist no matter where you are. I used to, but that was before the internet ate everything. Keep at it. It’s an amazing medium. I’m honored and pleasured by our exchange of words too! I don’t know when ‘Jerk’ goes VOD. Hm, I’ll ask. Hopefully soon. Have as close to a perfect day as possible. ** Bill, Me too. I kind of got to a palimpsest thing with ‘The Marbled Swarm’, or got the closest so far at least. I’ll get all over Enriquez, thank you. That does sound entertaining: your dream. I wish mine were more imaginative. There’s just like high tension thrillers, which is not my favorite genre. ** Robert, Thank you, and happy my birthday to you. My plate this week is packed with work. Urgh. Great that you got your novel going again. Where are you in it? Thank you about the post. It was a hard thing to try to finesse, so that’s great to hear. ** Joseph Earp, Hi! And now it’s my birthday right here where I live. Torres … I don’t think I know her work, unless I’m spacing. I’ll listen to that song you linked to and then use it as an adventure’s starting gate. Thanks a lot! Cool, I’ll go see your new uploaded paintings. They definitely deserve being on gallery walls. I’ve never been to Sydney. I’ve been to Melbourne and Tasmania, but that’s it for Australia so far. It sounds complicated and not un-NYC-like in a way. I’m looking forward to ‘Cattle’. I hope to read (or start reading) it on my very long upcoming plane flight. Interesting that you work at a film production company, So, yeah ,I’m sure you know the difficulties involved. We hooked up with a new Line Producer last night, and we’ll see if he can work magic with our very tight budget. I do really like the film ‘The Swimmer’, yes. And I agree that Lancaster is always a joy to watch in pretty much anything. Cool. I hope your day gives you something really special. ** Nick, Hi, Nick. Thanks re: my b’day. It just started but I think it’ll be pretty normal until I eat with some friends later. That’s fine though. I do like cakes. I certainly wouldn’t mind if one is placed in front of me before the day is over. We’ll see. Okay, that evening out does sound pretty exciting and, dare I say, very promising? It does seem like you should talk to him and that he certainly will not be sorry or feel weird if you do. Hot and sorta broken can be very dangerous and, well, amazing but yeah. I know the power of that combination very well. Feature like physical feature? Hm. I’ve never been hugely fond of my features. People do sometimes say I have nice eyes, so I guess I’ll pick them. They’re blue. I think that helps. In others? With guys, I’m a total sucker for long hair and skinniness, I don’t know why, but I am. Enjoy this day that happens to be my birthday bigly, okay? ** Sarah, Thank you so much, Sarah! <3 ** Jamie, Jamie, my pal! Thank you so much!!! Look forward to more of you! Slice of b’day cake with optional ice cream scoop love, me. ** Okay. Enjoy what my birthday has wrought upon the blog space if you possibly can. See you tomorrow.

« Older posts Newer posts »

© 2023 DC's

Theme by Anders NorénUp ↑