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On Hollis Frampton 247 In the mid-Sixties, however, we did have conversations, during which I also talked, that were extremely clarifying for both of us. We both were (as were others we knew, like Ken Jacobs or George Landow) thinking a lot about what kind of tool the camera was and what kind of experience the products of such a tool ought to give. Photography and cinema are nineteenth-century technologies, perhaps an aspect of Hollis's comfort with them. Our accord was that the intercession of the camera between the artist and audience called for recognition of and inclusion of special forms of detachment or distance of the artist. Much of the art that was being done when I was younger was concerned with making the artist visible. The thumbprint aspect of Abstract Expressionism represented one kind of visibility: only a particular personality , a particular set of anxieties, a particular predicament could have manipulated the surface in that way, could have produced the set of traits which, taken together, constitute an empirical visible style. I have never felt comfortable having that kind of visibility myself. My films put me exactly at the end of the camera where I can never be directly visible: if I do have any visibility, it is always mediated in ways which are open to manipulation. Hollis said: "I do know a number of filmmakers who have never decided which end of the camera they wanted to be on." He went on to mention, of Stan Brackage, that "he'd like to be on both ends: he'd like to be seen, and at the same time, he would like to be in control of the way in which he is seen." Hollis's later film work has been seen by some to be rather Brackagean. It's very Framptonian, but it includes more of what he called "dirt" than what in the earlier works he called "chemistry." His later film work tends more to the quote "natural" than to the quote "artificial" and to seem more what's called "expressive." But the paradox of the tactics of personal-touch effacement which I mentioned is that they themselves are, or can be, in practice "expressive," that even in such executive-mode creations as opera, where the author is in many ways far removed from the final actual manifestation of his directions, a thumbprint, or in this case I'd rather call it a voice-print, of the responsible individual personality is discernable. When I moved back to Toronto in 1971, Hollis had moved to Eaton, New York, and was more and more active in Buffalo. I am sorry to say I saw him less and less. These post-mortem mea culpas are useless, but Toronto and Buffalo are very close. The last time I saw Hollis was in the fall of '83 when he was in Toronto for a symposium on Photographic Theory at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute. He gave an extraordinary performance. The next night he came to supper. We drank and he talked and smoked, and it was just like the old days. We stayed up till about 4:00 a.m., and it was then that he told me of his illness and its seriousness. I had known nothing about it. He stayed overnight and we had a long rambling breakfast, during which he told some of the most hilarious stories I'd ever heard from him. Perhaps other friends of Hollis's may have heard these stories: the one about the New York barfly who owned a monkey who met a dreadful fate and the other about the misadventures of the young painter who was invited for a weekend at the East Hampton summer home of a wealthy collector. The night before I had asked about the work he had been doing with what has been so oddly labelled "digital arts." I asked him about computers and working with them. He settled back with a wacky introspective grin on his tired face and said slowly, "Oh, it's sweet." Then, "We are going to see unbelievable marvels ." I am deeply indebted to Helene Houston, a former student and colleague of Hollis's, for writing to me and expanding on the reasons for the moment of rapture 248 The Collected Writings of Michael Snow Hollis experienced when I asked him that question. I remember it very vividly but we didn't go any further because it was late and sad. Hollis shouldn...


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MARC Record
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