The collected writings of artist and filmmaker Hollis Frampton, including all the essays from the long-unavailable Circles of Confusion along with rare additional material.
As Hollis Frampton's photographs and celebrated experimental films were testing the boundaries of “the camera arts” in the 1960s and 1970s, his provocative and highly literate writings were attempting to establish an intellectually resonant form of discourse for these critically underexplored fields. It was a time when artists working in diverse disciplines were beginning to pick up cameras and produce films and videotapes, well before these practices were understood or embraced by institutions of contemporary art. This collection of Frampton's writings presents his critical essays (many written for Artforum and October) along with additional material, including lectures, correspondence, interviews, and production notes and scripts. It replaces—and supersedes—the long-unavailable Circles of Confusion, published in 1983. Frampton ranged widely over the visual arts in his writing, and the texts in this collection display his unique approaches to photography, film, and video, as well as the plastic and literary arts. They include critically acclaimed essays on Edward Weston and Eadweard Muybridge as well as appraisals of contemporary photographers; the influential essay, “For a Metahistory of Film,” along with scripts, textual material, and scores for his films; writings on video that constitute a prehistory of the digital arts; a dialogue with Carl Andre (his friend and former Phillips Andover classmate) from the early 1960s; and two inventive, almost unclassifiable pieces that are reminiscent of Borges, Joyce, and Beckett.
This expansive collection of Frampton's critical writing is long overdue, replacing the out-of-print (and less comprehensive) Circles of Confusion from 1983. In addition to in-depth deconstructions of photography and film, this volume includes previously unpublished letters, lecture transcriptions and Frampton's own notes for the production of his films. Divided into four sections, the book first covers essays about photography, then essays on film, on Video and Digital Arts, and finally on the "Other Arts," mainly painting and sculpture. Though somewhat dense, the material is rewarding for its eloquence, humor and flair. In "Some Propositions on Photography," Frampton discusses the ambiguity of the form as an art, a science, and (to the artist's horror) a hobby ("conceived in the belly of the Muse, but later plucked from her ashes and nurtured in the thigh of Commerce"). His "Notes on Composing a Film" reads like a manifesto: "the whole history of art is no more than a massive footnote to the history of film." Even obscure writings, like a letter to the editor of Artforum, showcase Frampton at his best: an articulate, meticulous and thorough defender of his aesthetic principles. 18 color and 16 b/w illus.