An icon of the American avant-garde, Hollis Frampton made rigorous, audacious, brainy, and downright thrilling films, leaving behind a body of work that remains unparalleled.
In the 1960s, having already been a poet and a photographer, Frampton became fascinated with the possibilities of 16 mm filmmaking. In such radically playful and visually and sonically arresting works as Surface Tension, Zorns Lemma, (nostalgia), Critical Mass, and the enormous, unfinished Magellan cycle (cut short by his death at age forty-eight), Frampton repurposed cinema itself, making it into something by turns literary, mathematical, sculptural, and simply beautiful—and always captivating.
Frampton was one of the earliest explorers of audio and visual digital media, writing and testing hundreds of computer programs, and formulating dozens of hardware devices, to produce a computing environment useful for the arts. Together with media artist Woody Vasulka he created UB’s Digital Arts Lab,the first program in the country devoted to the study of digital arts. DAL implemented and further developed these emerging technologies.
Frampton died of lung cancer in 1984 at age 48. His final years at UB were spent working on his unfinished “Magellan” project (a film intended to be viewed in daily segments over 371 days) busily writing computer software programs to organize images for this work. Among other things, Frampton was perhaps one of the first people to understand the potential of the computer as personal creative instrument.