Tag Archives: burroughs

Allen Ginsberg’s Photographs Featured in First Scholarly Exhibition

Media_httpwwwartdaily_hcgna

W. S. Burroughs at rest in the side-yard of his house…, 1991, gelatin silver print, printed 1991-1997, image: 22.1 x 33 cm (8 11/16 x 13 in.), sheet: 27.9 x 35.4 cm (11 x 13 15/16 in.) Gift of Gary S. Davis © Copyright 2010 The Allen Ginsberg LLC. All rights reserved.

WASHINGTON, DC.- Some of the most compelling photographs taken by renowned 20th-century American poet Allen Ginsberg (1926–1997) of himself and his fellow Beat poets and writers—including William S. Burroughs, Neal Cassady, Gregory Corso, and Jack Kerouac―are the subject of the first scholarly exhibition and catalogue of these works. Beat Memories: The Photographs of Allen Ginsberg explores all facets of his photographs through 79 black-and-white portraits, on view at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, from May 2 through September 6, 2010.

http://www.artdaily.org/index.asp?int_sec=2&int_new=37834

http://www.nga.gov/

Tagged , , , , ,

Marshall McLuhan: Notes on Burroughs (1964)

Mm

Written about William S. Burroughs for The Nation, Dec. 28, 1964 (pages 517-519)…

1. Today men’s nerves surround us; they have gone outside as electrical environment. The human nervous system itself can be reprogrammed biologically as readily as any radio network can alter its fare. Burroughs has dedicated Naked Lunch to the first proposition, and Nova Express (both Grove Press) to the second. Naked Lunch records private strategies of culture in the electric age. Nova Express indicates some of the “corporate” responses and adventures of the Subliminal Kid who is living in a universe which seems to be someone else’s insides. Both books are a kind of engineer’s report of the terrain hazards and mandatory processes, which exist in the new electric environment.

2. Burroughs uses what he calls “Brion Gysin’s cut-up method which I call the fold-in method.” To read the daily newspaper in its entirety is to encounter the method in all its purity. Similarly, an evening watching television programs is an experience in a corporate form — an endless succession of impressions and snatches of narrative. Burroughs is unique only in that he is attempting to reproduce in prose what we accommodate every day as a commonplace aspect of life in the electric age. If the corporate life is to be rendered on paper, the method of discontinuous nonstory must be employed.

3. That man provides the sexual organs of the technological world seems obvious enough to Burroughs, and such is the stage (or “biological theatre” as he calls it in Nova Express) for the series of social orgasms brought about by the evolutionary mutations of man and society. The logic, physical and emotional, of a world in which we have made our environment out of our own nervous systems, Burroughs follows everywhere to the peripheral orgasm of the cosmos.

4. Each technological extension involves an act of collective cannibalism. The previous environment with all its private and social values, is swallowed by the new environment and reprocessed for whatever values are digestible. Thus, Nature was succeeded by the mechanical environment and became what we call the “content” of the new industrial environment. That is, Nature became a vessel of aesthetic and spiritual values. Again and again the old environment is upgraded into an art form while the new conditions are regarded as corrupt and degrading. Artists, being experts in sensory awareness, tend to concentrate on the environmental as the challenging and dangerous situation. That is why they may seem to be “ahead of their time.” Actually, they alone have the resources and temerity to live in immediate contact with the environment of their age. More timid people prefer to accept the content, the previous environment’s values, as the continuing reality of their time. Our natural bias is to accept the new gimmick (automaton, say) as a thing that can be accommodated in the old ethical order.

5. During the process of digestion of the old environment, man finds it expedient to anesthetize himself as much as possible. He pays as little attention to the action of the environment as the patient heeds the surgeon’s scalpel. The gulping or swallowing of Nature by the machine was attended by a complete change of the ground rules of both the sensory ratios of the individual nervous system and the patterns of the social order as well. Today, when the environment has become the extension of the entire mesh of the nervous system, anesthesia numbs our bodies into hydraulic jacks.

6. Burroughs disdains the hallucinatory drugs as providing mere “content,” the fantasies, dreams that money can buy. Junk (heroin) is needed to turn the human body itself into an environment that includes the universe. The central theme of Naked Lunch is the strategy of bypassing the new electric environment by becoming an environment oneself. The moment one achieves this environmental state all things and people are submitted to you to be processed. Whether a man takes the road of junk or the road of art, the entire world must submit to his processing. The world becomes his “content.” He programs the sensory order.

7. For artists and philosophers, when a technology is new it yields Utopias. Such is Plato’s Republic in the fifth century B.C., when phonetic writing was being established. Similarly, More’s Utopia is written in the sixteenth century when the printed book had just become established. When electric technology was new and speculative, Alice in Wonderland came as a kind of non-Euclidean space-time Utopia, a grown-up version of which is the Illuminations of Rimbaud. Like Lewis Carroll, Rimbaud accepts each object as a world and the world as an object. He makes a complete break with the established procedure of putting things into time or space:

That’s she, the little girl behind the rose bushes, and she’s dead. The young mother, also dead, is coming down the steps. The cousin’s carriage crunches the sand. The small brother (he’s in India!) over there in the field of pinks, in front of the sunset. The old men they’ve buried upright in the wall covered with gilly-flowers.

But when the full consequences of each new technology have been manifested in new psychic and social forms, then the anti-Utopias appear. Naked Lunch can be viewed as the anti-Utopia of Illuminations:

During the withdrawal the addict is acutely aware of his surroundings. Sense impressions are sharpened to the point of hallucination. Familiar objects seem to stir with a writhing furtive life. The addict is subject to a barrage of sensations external and visceral.

Or to give a concrete example from the symbolist landscape of Naked Lunch:

A guard in a uniform of human skin, black buck jacket with carious yellow teeth buttons, an elastic pullover shirt in burnished Indian copper […] sandals from calloused foot soles of young Malayan farmer […]

The key to symbolist perception is in yielding the permission to objects to resonate with their own time and space. Time and space themselves are subjected to the uniform and continuous visual processing that provides us with the “connected and rational” world that is in fact only an isolated fragment of reality — the visual. There is no uniform and continuous character in the nonvisual modalities of space and time. The Symbolists freed themselves from visual conditions into the visionary world of the iconic and the auditory. Their art, to be visually oriented and literary man, seems haunted, magical and often incomprehensible. It is, in John Ruskin’s words:

… the expression, in a moment, by a series of symbols thrown together in bold and fearless connections; of truths which it would have taken a long time to express in any verbal way, and of which the connection is left for the beholder to work out for himself; the gaps, left or overleaped by the haste of the imagination, forming the grotesque character. (Modern Painters)

The art of the interval, rather than the art of the connection, is not only medieval but Oriental; above all, it is the art mode of instant electric culture.

8. There are considerable antecedents for the Burroughs attempt to read the language of the biological theatre and the motives of the Subliminal Kid. Fleurs du Mal is a vision of the city as the technological extension of man. Baudelaire had once intended to title the book Les Limbes. The vision of the city as a physiological and psychic extension of the body he experienced as a nightmare of illness and self-alienation. Wyndham Lewis, in his trilogy The Human Age, began with The Childermass. Its theme is the massacre of innocents and the rape of entire populations by the popular media of press and film. Later in The Human Age Lewis explores the psychic mutations of man living in “the magnetic city,” the instant, electric, and angelic (or diabolic) culture. Lewis views the action in a much more inclusive way than Burroughs whose world is a paradigm of a future in which there can be no spectators but only participants. All men are totally involved in the insides of all men. There is no privacy and no private parts. In a world in which we are all ingesting and digesting one another there can be no obscenity or pornography or decency. Such is the law of electric media which stretch the nerves to form a global membrane of enclosure.

9. The Burroughs diagnosis is that we can avoid the inevitable “closure” that accompanies each new technology by regarding our entire gadgetry as junk. Man has hopped himself up by a long series of technological fixes:

You are all dogs on tape. The entire planet is being developed into terminal identity and complete surrender.

We can forego the entire legacy of Cain (the inventor of gadgets) by applying the same formula that works for junk — “apomorphine,” extended to all technology:

Apomorphine is no word and no image — […] It is simply a question of putting through an inoculation program in the very limited time that remains — Word begets image and image IS virus —

Burroughs is arguing that the power of the image to beget image, and of technology to reproduce itself via human intervention, is utterly in excess of our power to control the psychic and social consequences:

Shut the whole thing right off — Silence — When you answer the machine you provide it with more recordings to be played back to your “enemies” keep the whole nova machine running — The Chinese character for “enemy” means to be similar to or to answer — Don’t answer the machine — Shut if off —

Merely to be in the presence of any machine, or replica of our body or faculties, is to be close with it. Our sensory ratios shift at once with each encounter with any fragmented extension of our being. This is a non-stop express of innovation that cannot be endured indefinitely:

We are just dust falls from demagnetized patterns — Show business —

It is the medium that is the message because the medium creates an environment that is as indelible as it is lethal. To end the proliferation of lethal new environmental expression, Burroughs urges a huge collective act of restraint as well as a nonclosure of sensory modes — “The biological theater of the body can bear a good deal of new program notes.”

10. Finnnegans Wake provides the closest literary precedent to Burroughs’ work. From the beginning to end it is occupied with the theme of “the extensions” of man — weaponry, clothing, languages, number, money, and media in toto. Joyce works out in detail the sensory shifts involved in each extension of man, and concludes with the resounding boast:

The keys to. Given!

Like Burroughs, Joyce was sure he had worked out the formula for total cultural understanding and control. The idea of art as total programming for the environment is tribal, mental, Egyptian. It is, also, an idea of art to which electric technology leads quite strongly. We live science fiction. The bomb is our environment. The bomb is of higher learning all compact, the extension division of the university. The university has become a global environment. The university now contains the commercial world, as well as the military and government establishments. To reprogram the cultures of the globe becomes as natural an undertaking as curriculum revision in a university. Since new media are new environments that reprocess psyche and society in successive ways, why not bypass instruction in fragmented subjects meant for fragmented sections of the society and reprogram the environment itself? Such is Burroughs’ vision.

11. It is amusing to read reviews of Burroughs that try to classify his books as nonbooks or as failed science fiction. It is a little like trying to criticize the sartorial and verbal manifestations of a man who is knocking on the door to explain that flames are leaping from the roof of our home. Burroughs is not asking merit marks as a writer; he is trying to point to the shut-on button of an active and lethal environmental process.

Marshall McLuhan

 

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

The Cat Inside

 

by Andre PerkowskiTerminal Pictures 

 

WSB | The Cat Inside

 

Happy Birthday, Mr. Burroughs

 

 

T-Shirt photo via Cory Q | Monkey River Town    

Tagged , , , , , ,

The Road to Interzone

Road_to_interzone_cover_thumb


The Road to Interzone is a partially annotated bibliography of the reading of William S. Burroughs. (…) In 2000, I set out to catalogue every published literary reference Burroughs made throughout his career. The document you hold in your hands is the result. It stands as a testament of an obsession and more importantly, the raw material for an investigation into what John Livingston Lowes called: ‘the shaping spirit of the imagination,’ the source materials of what was to become Burroughs’ literary legacy and the skeleton for an interpretation of the operational processes of influence and the function of artistic inspiration. (…) The Road to Interzone seeks to identify the literary influences that made WSB’s legendary canon of work possible.” 

—Michael Stevens

“A fascinating and richly helpful piece of literary archeology, tracing as broadly as possible the sources William Burroughs had available to him as he wrote. Both the title and the method echo the classic Road to Xanadu, John Livingston Lowes excavation of Coleridge’s reading: Coleridge, like Burroughs, being more than a little interested in drugs. It is a work for which all Burroughs students should be grateful.”

—Larry McMurtry

 

Tagged , ,

Shotgun Paintings (Video)

 

During his later years in Kansas, Burroughs also developed a painting technique whereby he created abstract compositions by placing spray paint cans in front of, and some distance from, blank canvasses, and then shooting at the paint cans with a shot gun. These splattered canvasses were shown in at least one New York City gallery in the early 1990s.

In an interview with Gregory Ego, entitled William Burroughs & the Flicker Machine, as published in David Kerekes 2003 Headpress (the journal of sex religion death), William explains how he made ths shotgun art painting, and others.

Heres is an excerpt from the interview:

EGO: Are you still doing your shotgun art?

BURROUGHS: Oh, all kinds. Brushwork. Shotgun. Paint. Knife.

EGO: What exact process do you use for your visual art?

BURROUGHS: There is no exact process. If you want to do shotgun art, you take a piece of plywood, put a can of spracy paint in front of it, and shoot it with a shotgun or high powered rifle. The paints under high pressure so it explodes! Throws the can 300 feed. The paint sprays in exploding color across your surface. You can have as many colors as you want. Turn it around, do it sideways, and have one color coming in from this side and this side. Of course, they hit. Mix in all kinds of unpredictable patterns. This is related to Pollacks drip canvases, although this is a rather more basically random process, theres no possibility of predicting what patterns youre going to get.
Ive had some Ive worked over for months. Get the original after the explosions and work it over with brushes and spray paints and silhouettes until Im satisfied. So, there isnt any set procedure. Sometimes you get it right there and you dont touch it. The most important thing in painting is to know when to stop, when everything is finished. Doesnt mean anything in writing.

EGO: It does rely to a high degree on chance — the shotgun art?

BURROUGHS: It introduces a random factor, certainly.

EGO: Just like the cut-up method.

BURROUGHS: Yes. But you dont have to use it all, you can use that as background. Therere a lot of other randomizing procedures like marbling. Take water and spray your paint on top of the water and then put your paper or whatever in the water and pull it out and it sticks in all sorts of random patterns. And then theres the old inkblot. [Ruffles imaginary paper] Like that. Sometimes theyre good only as background or sometimes you get a picture that youre satisfied with at once. There is no certain procedure.

EGO: Allen Ginsberg proposed to me that the cut-up technique you developed with Brion Gysin is a sort of counter-brainwashing technique. Do you agree with that?

BURROUGHS: It has that aspect in that you’re breaking down the word, you’re creating new words. Right as soon as you start cutting, you’re getting new words, new combinations of words. Yes, it has that aspect, sure.

But remember that all this brainwashing and propaganda, etc., is not by any means expected to reach any intelligent corners. It isnt expected to convince anybody that has any sense. If they can get ten percent, thats good. Thats the aim of propaganda; to get

ten percent. Theyre not trying to convince people that have a grain of sense.

Wsb01

 

via shihlunTW

 

Tagged , , , ,

Dream Machine and Cats

Word begets image and image IS virus.

“Zos and Kia are next to the Dream Machine. William Burroughs takes care of us.”

via zoas23zoas

http://www.youtube.com/user/zoas23zoas

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Be Cheerful, Sir


 
Burroughs cut-up, “Be Cheerful, Sir” from German journal Rhinozeros, no. 7, 1962

Source:  Reality Studio (more, by Jed Birmingham)

via Ordinary Finds

Tagged ,