William Burroughs is my favorite beatnik because he defies that label. Burroughs: crackley- voiced, direct, cold, gun-toting - the gentleman terrorist. His work is its own genre: an aesthetic of bouncing boys with gleaming butt hairs, old-fashioned chemicals (mostly opiates), paramilitary organizations, mind control, erotic explosions, swirling vortices and square-cut nonsense.
Burroughs is obsessed with the police state. He describes the systems of surveillance which surround us with such intuitive (well, he studies it pretty hard, actually) and glistening creative flights that we wonder where to turn, where to hide.
Question: "You see outer space as the only solution to this cop-ridden planet?"
WSB: "Yeah, it's the only place to go! If we ever get out alive...IF we're lucky."
Burroughs is Gibson 30 years early, with far less regard for narrative restraint and with the kegs of chance tapped and full-on.
Brion Gysin was Burroughs' greatest influence. A self-taught painter, Gysin threw himself wholeheartedly into diverse endeavors: living in Tangier, he opened a restaurant, "in order to hear the Master Musicians of Jajouka every day" (in Terry Wilson's words), and he's also studied Japanese, invented a Dreamachine and the literary techniques of cut-ups and permutations. He has also explored the world of magic, which he says in Morocco is unavoidable; magic works well, and seems effective, in the context of his experiments with word, image and consciousness. See, for example, if a spell is not cast by repetition of the phrase, "Brion Gysin let the mice in."
The Dreamachine, invented by Gysin with mathematician Ian Sommerville, is a device where light comes at your closed eyes through cylinders slotted at precise intervals - complementing the brain's alpha rhythm and resulting in dreams, hallucinations, and oracular tendencies. (To date this design has not been mass marketed.) Gysin's influence is felt across our subcultures: a real system of experimenting, combined with a relentless, at-ease desire to subvert and integrate.
Gysin and Burroughs in their turn inspired Genesis P'Orridge, who has used his knowledge of control systems and magick to produce, among other things, industrial music. For P'Orridge, "music is a platform for propaganda." Throbbing Gristle stemmed from the COUM Transmissions, a Crowley-inspired performance group which practiced rituals of outstanding physical endurance (from performers and audience). Between 1975 and 1981, Throbbing Gristle made many records as well as pre-MTV videos, including the ambient film "In the Shadow of the Sun," directed by Derek Jarman. Their record label, Industrial Records, released "Nothing Here Now But the Recordings," a selection of Burroughs' early cut-up tape experiments. P'Orridge has worked extensively with Gysin as well.
P'Orridge's current subversive activities include the band Psychic TV and worldwide cultic organization, The Temple ov Psychick Youth (T.O.P.Y.) T.O.P.Y./Temple Press publishes squirmy materials on sadism ("The Correct Sadist" by Terence Sellars, a.k.a. Mistress Angel Stern), Crowley and other facets of apocalyptic and post-industrial culture. P'Orridge seeks to close circles... a Master Musician of Jajouka appears on PTV's 1990 disc, "Towards Thee Infinite Beat..."
Gysin and Burroughs early-on set up a matrix for American-British culture to explore its dark side; P'Orridge and the "RE/Search" crew continue to grow long fingernails for scratching the filthy underbelly of our phony sanitized culture.
(see address under link: "RE/Search")
$13, 95 pp., photographs, includes bibliographies, discographies,
and info on where to buy publications by mail.
Here is the TEXT POPUP for Burroughs/Gysin/Throbbing Gristle:
On Gysin's paintings:
"The cabalistic grid was incorporated into his work and his paintings increasingly became formulae and spells intended to produce very specific effects in the viewer. In Islam, the world is a vast emptiness like the Sahara. Events are written: Mektoub. Likewise, Gysin's empty deserts became written deserts, written first from right to left, like Arabic, and then, after turning the page, from top to bottom, like Japanese, within the multi-dimensional grid."
"The painting of Brion Gysin deals directly with magical roots of art. His paintings may be called space art. Time is seen spatially, that is, as series of images or fragments of images past present and future... Here is a Gysin scene from Marrakesh - moving figures, phantom bicycles, cars... this is a literal representation of what actually happens in the human nervous system: a street reminds you of a car that went by yesterday, or a boy on a bicycle years ago, in fact everything that you have experienced on that street and other streets associated with it. The pictures constantly change because you are drawn into time travel on a network of association. Brion Gysin paints from the viewpoint of timeless space."
Gysin, from "The Third Mind:"
"Writing is fifty years behind painting. I propose to apply the painters' techniques to writing; things as simple and immediate as collage or montage. Cut right through the pages of any book or newsprint... lengthwise for example, and shuffle the columns of text. Put them together at hazard and read the newly constituted message. Do it for yourself. Use any system which suggests itself to you. Take your own words or the words said to be 'the very own words' of anyone else living or dead. Words have a vitality of their own and you or anybody can make them gush into action...'Your very own words,' indeed! And who are you?"