1/17/10 - White Light Cinema - Hollis Frampton's ZORNS LEMMA

From: Patrick Friel (email suppressed)
Date: Sat Jan 09 2010 - 12:31:38 PST

Forgot to get this on This Week in Avant-Garde...

Showing as Part of the Citywide Screening Series CRITICAL MASS: RE-VIEWING
Introduced Live Via Webcam by Toronto-Based Scholar Michael Zryd!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17 ­ 7:00pm
Peter Gidal: ³What do you consider ZORNS LEMMA to be about?
Hollis Frampton: ³Oh, dear! Are you asking that question?²
- From ³Interview with Hollis Frampton² (May 24, 1972)
As its contribution to the citywide screening series ³Critical Mass:
Re-Viewing Hollis Frampton² White Light Cinema is pleased to be presenting
one of Framptonıs most acclaimed films ­ ZORNS LEMMA.
His first major work, ZORNS (1970, 60 mins., 16mm) is a culmination of many
of Framptonıs major concerns up to that point ­ the creation and use of
language systems and the idea of seriality in particular. It is both an
intellectual exercise and a playful work of gaming (a precursor of sorts to
The film will be introduced by Toronto-based film scholar Michael Zryd, who
will help provide some context for the screening and strategies for viewing.
³One of Frampton's monumental achievements, a playful puzzle of a film, full
of wry autobiographical allusion, in which the artist experiments with
systems of learning and language; narrative, action, and seriality; the
disjunctive rhythms of sound and image; and the sensuous and the
intellectual.² (Museum of Modern Art)
"Zorns Lemma is a major poetic work. Created and put together by a very
clear eye and head, this original and complex abstract work moves beyond the
letters of the alphabet, beyond words and beyond Freud" (Ernie Gehr)
"In his most important work to date, and the most original new work of
cinema I have seen since Brakhage's Scenes From Under Childhood: Part IV.
Frampton's film is an exercise in mathematical logic in cinema. Or is it a
mechanical logic?... It's about alphabet. It's about the unities of
similarities. It's about sameness in a confusion. It's about logic in
chance. Its about structure and logic. It's about rhythm. Ah, what a
difference between Zorns Lemma and all the 'serious' commercial movies that
I occasionally praise!" (Jonas Mekas, Village Voice)
"Zorns Lemma is divided into three sections: an initial imageless reading of
the Bay State Primer; a long series of silent shots, each one second
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 upon 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; in the slot of
X the fire continues for a second each time, the sea roll backwards at the
end of each alphabet once the initial substitution occurs. On the other
hand, the signs are different in every cycle.
The substitution process sets in action a guessing game and a device. Since
the letters seem to disappear roughly in inverse proportion to their
distribution as initial letters of words in English, the viewer can with
occasional 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 (N) add a time
dimension essentially different from that of the waves, or a static tree
(F), a red ibis flapping its wings (H), 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 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 whiteness of
the screen." (P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film)
Michael Zryd is Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at York
University. He researches experimental and documentary film and other forms
of North American alternative media. His major research project is a
conceptual study of Hollis Framptonıs never-completed Magellan project
(1972-1980). He has curated or co-curated Hollis Frampton Magellan
retrospectives in Toronto, New York, Karlsruhe, and London. He is currently
Archivist of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies (SMCS) and member of
its Board of Directors. He is also co-chair of the SCMS Experimental Film
and Media Scholarly Interest Group.
This program screens Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 7:00pm at The Nightingale
(1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.).
Admission: $7.00-10.00 sliding scale
Website: www.whitelightcinema.com
<http://www.hollisframpton-criticalmass.com> .

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.