generated in Ohio

Hollis Frampton – Hapax Legomena

Part 1 – (nostalgia)

The basic assumption regarding Hollis Frampton’s seven part Hapax Legomena is that each respective part aims to deconstruct an element of cinema: ‘(nostalgia)’ addresses narrative, ‘critical mass’ addresses sound, ‘traveling matte’ explores framing, etc. This is a simple, straightforward reading of Frampton’s film and places him easily among his structuralist contemporaries.  But the captivating element of this marathon of avant garde filmmaking is Frampton’s attempt to instruct his audience in new methods of viewership. Frampton presents each film as a new exercise, a game even, in deciphering the method through which the viewer can understand the film. In ‘(nostalgia)’, the incongruous narration requires a balancing act between recollection of the previous image as a new image writhes on the hotplate.

Part 3 – critical mass

Here, in part 3, Frampton requires the audience to learn how to listen to this film and piece together the continuity of the conversation. This calls into question the authorship of the cinematic experience: is Frampton orchestrating the perception of the audience? or allowing the audience to create their own experience with the most basic elements of cinema?

Part 2, ‘poetic justice’ (unfortunately unavailable on youtube or elsewhere), addresses this concept the best of the seven. A static shot of cactus, screenplay and cup of coffee, the film progresses through a continually growing pile of screenplay pages that describe the actions of the filmmaker (Frampton in first person) as he films and the viewer (described in second person) and the viewer’s lover. The ‘images’ of the film become ‘projected’ in the viewer’s mind as they perceive the action described onscreen. Frampton appears as the author of the script, but the composition of the film is unique to the audience.  This is the argument at the core of each section of Hapax Legomena, the cinematic image is fallible, subservient to the altering unique perception of the individual audience member.

The entirety of this interview is available at Amazon Video on Demand.


1 Response to “generated in Ohio”

  1. 1 devavivarma
    February 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    Awesome post,

    also, in Nostalgia and Critical Mass you find Frampton at work with visual-acoustic disjunctions/ paradox

    it’s interesting in two ways, that i can think of offhand, in relation to the larger project of Frampton’s work. namely, that film, as a “recording surface” and material, moves in a supple, gorgeously sensitive way in tune with the movement of consciousness– this is perhaps the major theme of his artistic projects, moving away from film as well– he cites early Eisenstein in his writing incessantly; he reflects on this in film in dissociating the sound from the image

    in critical mass, this two-part register, comes to the for. The “sound-image” and the “moving image” are in orbit but not synchronized. Part of this can be considered as part of the battle against narrative cinema and Hollywood, and its literary cues for interpretation. The viewer is engaged rather than seduced, but not as an artistic endpoint in itself. Part of this can again be thought in relation to a contemporaneous attack on abstract expressionsism. Frank Stella in relation to Pollack for example, and in the case of Frampton, an attack on his former teacher Stan Brakhage’s romanticism. Brakhage did say Critical Mass was one of Frampton’s most immediately turbulent and attacking films. Though when I saw it, most people in the theater were laughing.


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