TDTKs May 2012

Zorns Lemma            Hollis Frampton        (1970 / 16 mm / 60 mins )

Made with a very clear and brilliant eye, Frampton’s original and complex work examines the ordering of things and language, starting with ABC. It begins by defining, then redefining the links between letters, words and objects.

For the viewer it sets in action an amazing guessing game and through its obsessive and hypnotic editing strategy creates a labyrinthine construction. By continually exposing new conjunctions and juxtapositions, a vast puzzle and a maze for the audience is created. Ambiguous, metaphorical and fascinating, this is a veritable masterpiece of structural filmmaking.

The excitement of Zorns Lemma stems largely from the ideas presented. It has a sensuous intellectuality; it thrills by engagement in ideas.


There are three sections:

It begins with a dark screen and a woman narrating from a children’s textbook teaching the letters of the alphabet. The long central section presents us with a silent substitution process; a recurring structure that perpetually moves through a 24-letter Latin alphabet constructed from filmed street signs and words. Gradually other images are substituted within this structure, themselves slowly developing as we arrive at them the next time around. It concludes with a man, woman and dog crossing a snowy field, incorporating a voice over using multiple narrators.