Showing as Part of the Citywide Screening Series CRITICAL MASS: RE-VIEWING HOLLIS FRAMPTON
Introduced Live Via Webcam by Toronto-Based Scholar Michael Zryd!
SUNDAY, JANUARY 17 – 7:00pm

At The Nightingale (1084 N. Milwaukee Ave.)


Peter Gidal:  “What do you consider ZORNS LEMMA to be about?"
Hollis Frampton: “Oh, dear! Are you asking that question?”         
- From “Interview with Hollis Frampton” (May 24, 1972)
As its contribution to the citywide screening series “Critical Mass: Re-Viewing Hollis Frampton” White Light Cinema is pleased to be presenting one of Frampton’s most acclaimed films – ZORNS LEMMA.
His first major work, ZORNS (1970, 60 mins., 16mm) is a culmination of many of Frampton’s 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 interactivity).
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.
“One 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.” (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. It's 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 Frampton’s 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.

Admission: $7.00-10.00 sliding scale