Hollis Frampton (1936-84)

Filmography (partial)

Clouds Like White Sheep (1962), 25 minutes

Manual of Arms (1966), 17 minutes

Maxwell’s Demon (1968), 4 minutes

Zorns Lemma (1970), 60 minutes

Hapax Legomena: nostalgia (1971, 31 minutes),

Traveling Matte (1971, 33.5 minutes), Critical

Mass (1971, 25.5 minutes), Special Effects (1972,

10.5 minutes), Poetic Justice (1972, 31.5 min.),

Ordinary Matter (1972, 36 minutes), Remote

Control (1972, 29 minutes).

The Magellan Cycle (incomplete, 1971-84).

Intended to be played over a 371 day period, it

would have a total running time of approximately

36 hours; by the time of his death Frampton

had shot about 40% of the film. In this series

are Winter Solstice (Solariumagelani, 1974), 33

minutes, and Noctiluca: Magellan’s Toys

(1974), 3.5 minutes.

I was born during the Age of Machines.

A machine was a thing made up of distinguishable ‘parts,’ organized in imitation of some function of the human body. Machines were said to ‘work.’ How a machine ‘worked’ was readily apparent to an adept, from inspection of the shape of its ‘parts.’ The physical principles by which machines ‘worked’ were intuitively verifiable.

The cinema was the typical survival-form of the Age of Machines. Together with its subset of still photographs, it performed prizeworthy functions: it taught and reminded us (after what then seemed a bearable delay) how things looked, how things worked, how to do things...and of course (by example), how to feel and think.

We believed it would go on forever, but when I was a little boy, the Age of Machines ended. We should not be misled by the electric can opener: small machines proliferate now as though they were going out of style because they are doing precisely that.

Cinema is the Last Machine. It is probably the last art that will reach the mind through the senses.

It is customary to mark the end of the Age of Machines as the advent of video. The point in time is imprecise: I prefer radar, which replaced the mechanical reconnaissance aircraft with a static anonymous black box. Its introduction coincides quite closely with the making of Maya Deren’s Meshes of the Afternoon and Willard Maas’s Geography of the Body.

The notion that there was some exact constant at which the tables turned, and cinema passed into obsolescence and thereby into art, is an appealing fiction that implies a special task for the metahistorian of cinema.–Hollis Frampton, 1971