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Frampton Comes Alive

Frampton comes Alive
A Summer-long celebration of experimental artist Hollis Frampton

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, UB’s Department of Media Study was located in the relatively tiny Wende Hall on the south campus. The dramatically underfunded department was also a hotbed of creativity—a place where students were exposed to radically experimental works by three instructors who are widely regarded as cutting edge artists in the structural film movement of the day: Tony Conrad, Paul Sharits, and Hollis Frampton.

Frampton, who died in 1984 at the premature age of 48, is being celebrated with a summer-long show and series of events that gets underway on Saturday (6/20) at 7pm in CEPA’s Market Arcade location at 617 Main St. The Buffalo Chamber Players will “perform a program of musical compositions mirroring the spirit of experimentation and innovation found in Frampton’s art.” (See Artvoice classical music columnist Jan Jezioro’s piece below for more info.)

Michael Zryd, of Toronto’s York University will speak at 8pm on Frampton’s unfinished film Magellan, placing it in relation to other unfinished art projects of the 20th century. Zryd is an international lecturer on Frampton’s work.

Concurrently, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center—recently relocated to the Market Arcade building—will present an exhibition focusing on Frampton’s work at the Digital Arts Lab at UB’s Department of Media Study from 1973-1984.

At 8:45pm on Saturday, in Squeaky Wheel’s new storefront gallery, South Carolina artist Evan Meaney will showcase two pieces based on Frampton films. One, an interactive video game inspired by his seven-minute 1969 silent film Lemon, and an installation based on his 1979 short Gloria!—an experimental reminiscence on his maternal grandmother.

Squeaky Wheel will also be showcasing Frampton’s short films (nostalgia), Critical Mass, and Poetic Justice throughout the evening.

Among the other events and exhibits planned for the summer include a display of Frampton objects and ephemera in the Western New York Book Arts Center; a screening of Frampton’s film Zorn’s Lemma on the front lawn of the Burchfield Penney Art Center (1300 Elmwood Avenue) on Friday, July 10 at dusk, in conjunction with Squeaky Wheel and featuring an original score performed by area bands Cages and Wooden Cities; a panel discussion in early August (TBA) at CEPA Gallery featuring colleagues and graduate students from across the country who studied with him at UB; and a performance on September 5 at dusk at Silo City, 120 Childs St., featuring a live score by Chicago-based composer Robert Lowe to accompany a background of films derived from Frampton’s Magellan Series.

The events are presented by CEPA Gallery, in partnership with Dean Brownrout Modern/Contemporary, and are free and open to the public.

Spaghetti (blue variation)

Buffalo Chamber Players presents a program in the spirit of Hollis Frampton

If you are an innovative group of professional classical musicians, like the Buffalo Chamber Players, most of whom are also members of the BPO, and you are invited to perform at the opening reception for a retrospective exhibition of an avant-garde icon like Hollis Frampton, what kind of program do you present? The answer was easy for the BCP and its artistic director, Janz Castelo. “We put together an exciting program mirroring the spirit of experimentation and innovation found in Hollis Frampton’s art,” says Castelo.

Lejaren Hiller, who later joined Lukas Foss and the Creative Associates at UB as Slee Professor of Composition in 1968, where he established the school’s first computer music facility, composed his Illiac Suite in 1957 and the work is generally acknowledged to be the first score composed by a computer. In a totally unexpected twist, the BCP will also perform Mozart’s Musikalisches Würfelspiel, or “Musical Dice Game,” which is something of a precursor to the piece by Hiller. As the musicologist Stephen Hedges has noted, in the mid 18th century “The ‘galant’ middle class in Europe was playing with mathematics. In this atmosphere of investigation and cataloging, a systematic device that would seem to make it possible for anyone to write music was practically guaranteed popularity.”

La Monte Young was one of the first minimalist composers, and the program will include his Composition 1960 #7, as well as his Poems for Chairs, Tables, Benches, etc, for which, says Castelo, “We are encouraging audience participation.” The fact that the talented overtone vocalist Alexander Glenfield, who recently moved back to Toronto, will join the BCP for these performances makes it a “must-see” event.

As for contemporary music, luckily, the BCP have Rob Deemer and Caroline Mallonée as composers-in-residence, and they have been able to consistently create new works that are not only interesting on an intellectual level, but also immediately engaging on a first hearing. Fittingly, the work by which each composer will be represented on this program was inspired by an artist. Deemer, associate professor of composition at Fredonia, composed Speedvisions for string quartet as a visceral response to the work of the Austin, Texas based surrealist painter Julie Speed. Mallonée was inspired to compose her trio Bidwell by the artwork of Buffalo artist Gerald Mead, and she says “since his collages often bring together different textures and colors, I wanted to create a musical collage that juxtaposed different textures and colors.”

The event takes place at 7pm on Saturday, (6/20) at CEPA Gallery in the Market Arcade with the BCP performing at 7:15 and 9pm. Admission is free.


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