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Saturday, 9 Feb 2008

Hollis Frampton – Zorns Lemma

Hollis Frampton - Zorns Lemma “Zorns Lemma combines several areas of intellectual and esthetic interest Frampton had explored in his early photographic work and in his early films. His fascination with mathematics, and in particular with set theory – explicit in his generation of numerical sets as a way of determining the placement of imagery in States and Heterodyne (1967), and implicit in his use of a deck of playing cards as a system for the photographic series, The Secret World of Frank Stella (1958-6z)’ – is the source of the title Zorns Lemma. Mathematician Max Zorn’s “lemma,” the eleventh axiom of set theory, proposes that, given a set of sets, there is a further set composed of a representative item from each set. Zorns Lemma doesn’t exactly demonstrate Zorn’s lemma, but Frampton’s allusion to the “existential axiom” is appropriate, given his use of a set of sets to structure the film. Frampton’s longtime interest in languages and literature is equally evident in Zorns Lemma. In the brief opening section of the film the viewer watches a dark screen as a woman reads verses from the Bay State Primer (Euro-America’s first English grammar text) that highlight words beginning with the successive letters of the Roman alphabet: “In Adam’s fall we sinned all”; “Thy life to mend, God’s Book attend”; “The Cat doth play, and after slay” (italics added). And the film’s long second section begins with set after set of alphabetically arranged environmental words.” – Scott MacDonald, Ubu.com

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