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from here? Finally, good painting came down to quality, but quality became a kind of artisanship which one would know and understand if one had good taste - thereby able to distinguish it from mediocre and bad artisanship. There is some kind of an ineluctable balance between paint and self-questioning and self-definition in "quality" painting of this sort.

Anyone totally on the outside might think that Minimal or ABC art, as it was also called, would perfectly answer Greenberg's prescription. But on the contrary, it went too far - beyond the ineluctable balance of an esthetic ideal quality opening other esthetic questions. Minimalism, a movement probably more of sculpture than of painting, stressed materials, especially industrial materials and industrial working procedures; holistic and unitary structures, as opposed to hierarchically organized ones; repetition through series or serialization; and a move from the subjectively hand-crafted into the a priori structuring of the objective, detached and distanced work of art. The idea of the object was hyperbolized, as in a Donald Judd box. A stress was placed on perception, and in contrast to post-painterly abstraction, it is highly intellectualized work. Minimal art takes the self-consciousness of modernism and the idea of the immanence of a work of art and hyperbolizes both. The object becomes part of a state described as "objecthood" by Michael Fried. And the object, it was claimed was neutral in a neutral environment.

In Greenberg's sense, this object-quality really got out of hand. And together with it so did the situation for the viewer who, faced with those Judd steel boxes, was forced into an active role - perceptually and intellectually - either accepting and engaging or withdrawing. But there was no simple passivity. This work had a set of demands to make and was, in a peculiar way, quietly aggressive. Less is more is the now old cliche about it - simple forms, reduced elements, holistic structures, raw materials, a move away from illusion. The object is what it is; it is about itself and nothing more; it bears no transcendent illusions. Minimal art suggests in its grand and aggressive and dramatic posture the exaggeration of so many of modernism's tenets-discontinuity, self-consciousness, immanence. Minimalism marks, I believe, through its self-hyperbolization, the real break-up and end of modernism in the visual arts.

To return to the recent film avant-garde and its connections to Greenberg and Minimalism, after the much publicized early Warhol work in film and the burst of extra-esthetic interest in the underground, came the Minimalist related work that began in the mid-'60s and is spoken of as structural film. 11

Included are the films of Tony Conrad, Hollis Frampton, Ernie Gehr, Ken Jacobs, George Landow, Paul Sharits and Michael Snow. Played out in these works is the self-questioning of the art form as well as a self-consciousness about it, a reductivism and a concern with the object and the idea of the self-enclosed object. Particular techniques and preoccupations characterize these works: exact repetition through use of the loop-printed image in Landow's A Film in Which There Appear Sprocket Holes, Edge Lettering, Dirt Particles, Etc., 1965-66; rephotography from a screen in Reverberation, 1969, by Jacobs, with a resulting emphasis on grain or emulsion; a single camera position as in Gehr's Still, 1970; and the frame as a color field, or the reduction of a film into simple elements of color or black-and-white frames, sometimes in the form of the flicker film, which itself exaggerates the operation of the film machinery, as with Sharits's Ray Gun Virus and Conrad's The Flicker, both of 1966. These reductivist means call attention to the materials, to the filmmaking process, to the filmmaker.

There were attempts to reconsider narrative and illusion, to deconstruct both, or to simply do away with them in the course of fashioning the film as a self-enclosed object. Unlike Minimal art, the imperfections were often shown and the paradox of object and process were exhibited at one and the same time. But like Minimal art, while maintaining that object-aspect, this film also demanded a great deal from its viewers, both perceptually and intellectually.

There is sometimes a fine line between, on the one side, questioning conventions and reducing apparent complexity in order to begin again, and, on the other side, reducing to a dead end, as happens with Greenberg. His is an ontological reductivism which attempts to fix its definition forever. Paul Sharits had at first optimistically written about researching a language of cinema based on structuralist methods, looking to the single frame rather than the shot as the smallest cinematic unit, but in his practice he ended up in an extreme reductivism. But there was with Sharits, as with others at that time, and as is always the case with an avant-garde, an attempt to find new forms and to experiment in the best sense. And the choices made by Sharits and his colleagues in the recent avant-garde were simple methods and means, rejecting traditions and conventions, in order to hone down.

There were those in the film avant-garde who expressed an active interest in both simple means and in film's beginnings. In an article published in Artforum in September 1971 called "For a Metahistory of Film: Commonplace Notes and Hypotheses," Hollis Frampton begins with that famous and now seemingly quaint quote of Louis Lumiere, father of the cinema: "The cinematograph [his camera, printer, projector in one] is an invention without a future." Later Frampton uses early film footage in a work of his own; and in still another one he makes references to the photographer Eadweard Muybridge who in 1880 had invented a sort of magic lantern proto-projector, an animating photograph machine, the Zoopraxiscope. But earlier, in the late 1960s, Ernie Gehr and Ken Jacobs were already both interested in primitive film and saw, and even purchased, some of the restored works from the Library of Congress Paper Print Collection. Using one of these, Jacobs made Tom, Tom the Piper's Son in 1969. In another example, in 1974, using primitive 

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Jack Smith, Flaming Creatures, 1963
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