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A Complete Disorientation of the Senses: William Burroughs’ and Antony Balch’s ‘Cut Ups’

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It caused nausea and vomiting when first shown at the Cinephone, Oxford Street, in London. Some of the audience demanded their money back, others hurled abuse and shouted “That’s sick,” and ““Its disgusting.” This was the idea, as writer William Burroughs and producer, Antony Balch wanted to achieve a complete “disorientation of the senses.”

Balch had a hard-on for the weird, unusual and sometimes depraved. It was a predilection born from his love of horror films - one compounded when as a child he met his idol, Bela Lugosi, the olde Austro-Hungarian junkie, who was touring Britain with the stage show that had made him famous, Dracula. Film was a love affair that lasted all of Balch’s life.

He also had a knack of making friends with the right people at the right time. In Paris he met and hung out with the artist Brion Gysin and druggie, Glaswegian Beat writer, Alexander Trocchi, who was then writing porn and editing a literary mag called Merlin, along with the likes of Christopher Logue. Through them, Balch met the two men who changed his life, Burroughs and Kenneth Anger.

Anger helped Balch with his ambitions as a cinema distributor, getting him a copy of Todd Browning’s classic Freaks, which was banned the UK, at that time. Balch paid Anger back when he later released his apocalyptic Invocation of My Demon Brother as a support feature.

Burroughs offered Balch something different - the opportunity to collaborate and make their own films.  This they did, first with Towers Open Fire, an accessible montage of Burroughs’ routines, recorded on a Grundig tape recorder, cut-up to Balch’s filmed and found images of a “crumbling society.” Put together stuff like this and the chattering classes will always take you seriously. But don’t doubt it, for it was good.

But it was their second collaboration, Cut Ups which for me is far more interesting and proved far more controversial. Cut Ups was originally intended as a documentary called Guerilla Conditions, and was filmed between 1961 and 1965 in Tangiers and Paris. It included some footage from Balch’s aborted attempt to film the unfilmable Naked Lunch. The finished material was collated and then conventionally edited - but the process didn’t stop there, no. For Balch divided the finshed film into four sections of equal length, and then...
 

 
Bonus clip of ‘Bill and Tony’ after the jump…
 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

William S. Burroughs’ The Junky’s Christmas


 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Into the mystic with Blondie’s Gary Valentine: Rock and roll meets Carl Jung, Ouspensky, and Magick

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Gary Valentine (birth name Gary Lachman) was a founding member of Blondie, playing bass with the group from 1975 to ‘77. He wrote one of the band’s defining songs ‘X Offender’ and one of their biggest hits, ‘(I’m Always Touched by Your) Presence, Dear’.  He went on to form his own band The Know in 1978 and briefly played guitar with Iggy Pop in 1981. 

Valentine became a dedicated writer in 1996 and published his first book ‘Turn Off Your Mind: The Mystic Sixties and the Dark Side of the Age of Aquarius’ in 2001. His memoir ‘New York Rocker: My Life in The Blank Generation’ is one of the few accounts of the NY punk scene that gets it right. Since then he’s published a series of books on the occult, philosophy, psychology, suicide and politics. In this interview with Cherry Red Records’ Iain McNay, Gary discusses his musical past and his life long interest in the inner workings of the human psyche.
 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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‘The Man We Want To Hang’: Kenneth Anger films the art of Aleister Crowley

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Crowley self-portrait, 1920
 
‘The Man We Want To Hang’ is a film shot by Kenneth Anger documenting an exhibit of Aleister Crowley’s paintings at London’s October Gallery in April 1998. The score is by Liadov.

I was amazed when I found this video. I thought I’d seen all of Anger’s films, but I was wrong. While it’s neither the trippy spectacle or erotic fetishism one expects of Anger, it still has moments where you sense the Anger ‘touch’. But mostly Kenneth steps out of the way and let’s Crowley’s paintings take center stage.

‘The Man We Want To Hang’, the title of the film also the title of the notorious Sunday Express article which had denounced A.C. as the “Wickedest Man In The World.” The title is also a pun on art being hung on gallery walls, and a possible reference to The Hanged Man of the Tarot—who appears in the film a few times—although nothing jumped out at me as I looked over that entry in The Book of Thoth to back up that line of thought (but I’m sure those with well wore copies of 777 and The Book of Thoth and a knack for undoing and uncovering occult puzzles may have better luck that I did ...)

The art works themselves—drawn of the collections of Keith Richmond, Jimmy Page and the Ordo Templi Orientis International—depict a variety of subjects. Simple landscapes of mountains, volcanoes and sea, serpents and malevolent beings from some daemonic reality, portraits of individuals familiar to those versed in A.C.‘s biography—such as Gerald Yorke and various Scarlet Women—and self-portraits of A.C., some evoking grey aliens or Lam.

If this was the only output of an artist they would have at most been a curious and obscure art historical footnote, if even that. But when put into the context of A.C.‘s life they have more value.

Throughout his life A.C. expressed his higher nature in a multitude of ways. Poetry, painting, ritual magick, sexual athleticism, writing, mountaineering, exploring higher consciousness. While he was middling in such expressions as painting and poetry, his non-fictional magickal texts are genius, a Joyce or Fassbinder of occult and esoteric philosophy, and most of us would be extremely lucky to create a single work of genius over a lifetime, let alone a multi-volumed network of texts like A.C.‘s.

Aside from his texts of magickal philosophy and ritual his other great work of art was his life, which encompassed the lowliest degradations and the highest and holiest exalted states. The art works provide a visual accompaniment to it—the settings, the personalities, the extraordinary experiences.

They also provide a reminder of A.C.‘s role as a prototype of the type of current creative spirit, with his multiple means of expression (poetry, art, journalism, adept, etc.) a forerunner of the of the typical artist of today, who is just as likely to write a novel, play in a band, star in a porn, run a small business, blog, than lock themselves in one monolithic way of expressing creative currents.

He ran a preview of this social reality movie like all successful intelligence agents do.” Jason Lubyk

 
 

 
Update: resident Crowley expert R. Metzger has informed me that The Man We Want To Hang is available as part of the Anger boxsets that were released a few years back. Available here.
Metzger also directed me to a film that Anger did on Crowley’s paintings called The Brush Of Baphomet, which you can watch after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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The Search For Philip K. Dick

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Philip K. Dick’s third wife Anne R. Dick has written “a biography dressed as a memoir” called The Search for Philip K. Dick which has just been published by San Francisco press Tachyon. Anne and Philip were married for only five years but it was a very vital period in Dick’s evolution as a writer. As poet Jack Spicer said in regards to his own Muse (and this could certainly apply to Dick) “the Martian kept rearranging the furniture in his head.”  In Dick’s case, the Martian was moving at the speed of sound.

Any new book on Dick is an event as far as I’m concerned and this one looks to be a significant contribution to the understanding of one of America’s most underrated and least understood writers of major distinction.

The book, while refraining from literary analysis, is invaluable for Dick fans and scholars because it’s told by the one person he was close to at an important turning point in his career. He wrote or developed roughly a dozen novels during his time in west Marin, including “The Man in the High Castle” (1962), his only novel to win the Hugo Award, science fiction’s biggest prize.

The writer Jonathan Lethem, who included five novels from this period in the Library of America anthologies he edited of Dick’s essential works, calls it Dick’s most fruitful time.

“The river of his literary ambitions — his interest in ‘respectable’ literature — joins the river of his guilty, disreputable, explosively imaginative pulp writing,” Mr. Lethem said in a phone interview. “It’s the most important passage of his career — more masterpieces in a shorter period of time.”

Read the NY Times piece on The Search For Philip K. Dick here. And to purchase it click here.

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Chris Burden’s incredible Metropolis 2 coming soon to LACMA

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Both my inner and outer six-year-old are squealing with glee over this absolutely flabbergasting new work by the ultimate Los Angeles artist, Chris Burden.
I can’t wait to see this in person.
 

 
Thanks, Nicole Panter !

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Christopher Hitchens staring down death: Interview on Australian TV

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I’ve always thought highly of Christopher Hitchens even when I’ve disagreed with him. As he deals with his own mortality, I now find him not only brilliant and witty, I find him inspirational. In this interview broadcast the other night on Australian TV, Hitchens discusses living (and perhaps dying) with cancer and his evolution as a thinker. Even with death lurking over his shoulder, Hitchens displays an amazing clarity of mind and fearlessness - a warrior.
 

 

 

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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John Cage chats with John Lennon & Yoko Ono (1972)
11.18.2010
10:30 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Music
Thinkers

Tags:
Yoko Ono
John Lennon
John Cage

 
This is nothing too profound, in fact it’s rather goofy and quite amusing to see how giddy the two Johns are around each other, but I’ve never seen this before and have no idea as to its provenance. Anybody?

 

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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Richard Dawkins reads hate mail and answers Reddit questions
11.15.2010
12:34 pm

Topics:
Belief
Current Events
Thinkers

Tags:
Richard Dawkins
Reddit

 
(via Nerdcore)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Julian Cope explores the geography of the mystic

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In addition to being a smashing songwriter, singer and memoirist, Julian Cope has spent the past 20 years exploring and documenting Britain’s megalithic heritage: monuments, stone circles, hill forts and barrows. In this documentary made for the BBC, we follow Cope on his journey into the geography of the mystic, a place of ceremony and magic.

The documentary is a companion piece to Cope’s splendid, sadly out-of-print, 1998 book ‘The Modern Antiquarian’. Fortunately, for those of us interested in sacred places he curates a website and you can find it here.

Since launching in March 2000ce, the site has grown to be a massive resource for news, information, images, folklore & weblinks on the ancient sites across the UK, Ireland and Europe.

 

 
Watch parts 2-6 after the jump…

Posted by Marc Campbell | Discussion
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Anatomy of a Hit and other comics by Peter Blegvad
11.05.2010
11:52 am

Topics:
Art
Heroes
Music
Thinkers

Tags:
Peter Blegvad

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Peter Blegvad is an all around swell songwriter/ poet/visual artist that I’ve long admired. Here are some great cartoons of his that are posted at the Radio Free Song Club which also hosts some songs by Blegvad as well.
 
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More after the jump…

Posted by Brad Laner | Discussion
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