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‘Time of the Assassins’: William S. Burroughs’ cut-up version of Time Magazine, 1965
10.30.2014
08:23 am

Topics:
Art
Books

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Brion Gysin
Time Magazine


 
One of the favored forms of Beat author William S. Burroughs was that of the “cut-up,” basically fancy talk for “collage.” After the Dadaists pioneered the technique in the 1920s, the midcentury artist who had done the most with it was Brion Gysin, a close friend of Burroughs, who once called Gysin “the only man I ever respected.” Gysin stumbled on the technique on his own around 1954 when he slashed a newspaper page and noticed that the page underneath created interesting juxtapositions. Gysin showed Burroughs the cut-up concept in the late 1950s, as he related in Cut-Ups: A Project for Disastrous Success:
 

William Burroughs and I first went into techniques of writing, together, back in room No. 15 of the Beat Hotel during the cold Paris spring of 1958. ... Burroughs was more intent on Scotch-taping his photos together into one great continuum on the wall, where scenes faded and slipped into one another, than occupied with editing the monster manuscript. ... Naked Lunch appeared and Burroughs disappeared. He kicked his habit with apomorphine and flew off to London to see Dr Dent, who had first turned him on to the cure. While cutting a mount for a drawing in room No. 15, I sliced through a pile of newspapers with my Stanley blade and thought of what I had said to Burroughs some six months earlier about the necessity for turning painters’ techniques directly into writing. I picked up the raw words and began to piece together texts that later appeared as “First Cut-Ups” in Minutes to Go (Two Cities, Paris 1960).

 

William S. Burroughs, photograph by Brion Gysin
 
In 1965 Gysin and Burroughs collaborated on a cut-up version of Time Magazine that would end up being 27 pages long. According to Jed Birmingham, “Time was published in 1965 in 1000 copies. 886 copies comprised the trade edition. These copies were unnumbered and unsigned. 100 copies were signed by Burroughs and Gysin. 10 copies numbered A-J were hard bound and contained a manuscript page of Burroughs and an original colored drawing by Gysin. 4 more were hors commerce. ... An hors commerce print was used as the color key and printing guide that the printer would use to insure consistency of the print run.”

Apparently, Burroughs and Gysin chose the November 30, 1962, cover of Time to mess with because that issue contained a dismissive review of Naked Lunch under the title “King of the YADs,” where “YAD” stood for “Young American Disaffiliates.” Burroughs was greatly irritated by the review.
 

 
The Time cut-up was described as follows in Robert A. Sobieszek’s Ports of Entry: William S. Burroughs and the Arts:
 

Burroughs created his own version of Time magazine, including a Time cover of November 30, 1962, collaged over by Burroughs with a reproduction of a drawing, four drawings by Gysin, and twenty-six pages of typescript comprised of cut up texts and various photographs serving as news items. One of the pages is from an article on Red China from Time of September 13, 1963, and is collaged with a columnal typescript and an irrelevant illustration from the ‘Modern Living’ section of the magazine. A full-page advertisement for Johns-Manville products is casually inserted amid all these text; its title: Filtering.

 

Here we can see what the cover originally looked like in color. Photograph: Stephen J. Gertz
 
The first few pages (after the “copyright page”) are pretty much pure typewritten text—the metaphor of this being a version of Time doesn’t really obtain until you get to page 5, which has the word “REPUBLICANS” across the top as well as the words “Democratic Governor John Swainson,” who was the Governor of Michigan when the original issue came out (but not in 1965). After that you spot the familiar non-serif typeface here and there. Page 6 is titled “THE WORLD” and is about Red China. Page 8 is simply an unmolested full-page ad for Johns-Manville. Page 10 has a picture of a bunch of dignitaries at Peking Airport and another one with “John and William Faulkner.” Pages 13-16 are a series of ideogrammatic doodles by Gysin, after which the text reverts almost entirely to typewritten text by Burroughs.

Page 22 may be the most interesting page, as it features several short paragraphs of true automatic writing, as for example: “moo moo. .Tally Tillie Valspar Vent flu flu..doo do do. .Ding Dong Bell. .Sell sell sell. .Knee Wall fell. .sell sell sell. .Tele tell yell. .Sell sell sell. .Pell Pow Mell. .Sell Sell Sell. .Pel Tex Mell.”

Here is Burroughs and Gysin’s Time cut-up in its entirety:
 

 

 

 
The rest after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘FLicKer’: Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine, tripping without drugs, w/ Iggy Pop, Kenneth Anger and more

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Some artists, like Picasso and Dali, were discovered when they were young and their talents grew to maturity before the public eye. Sometimes, however it takes… well, dying before the art world sits up and takes notice of you, This was certainly the case with Brion Gysin, the Canadian/British painter and author who long stood in the shadows, figuratively speaking, of William S. Burroughs, his lifelong friend and collaborator. Burroughs once said that Brion Gysin was the only man he ever truly respected.

Gysin is an artist whose work must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Of course this is said about every artist’s work, but it’s particularly true with Brion Gysin. What might appear to be random chicken scratch calligraphy when reproduced in a book, becomes ALIVE when seen in person. Seemingly careless hash marks become scenes of hundreds of people around a bonfire or a crowded Arab marketplace when you’re staring right at it.

The man was a master. And he left an awful lot of work behind. Although there were various Gysin gallery exhibits in New York while he was still alive—I recall being astonished by some large works on paper in a great 1985 show at the Tower Gallery—there was never a museum-level retrospective of Gysin’s work in the United States until 2010 at the New Museum in Manhattan:

One of the things Gysin is best know for is inventing the Dreamachine—a kinetic light sculpture that utilizes flicker effect to induce visions—a drugless turn-on.

FLicKer is a 2008 Canadian documentary about Gysin’s Dreamachine, directed by Nik Sheehan. Kenneth Anger, Marianne Faithfull, Gysin biographer John Geiger, Iggy Pop, Genesis P-Orridge, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, DJ Spooky and yours truly are interviewed.
 

 
H/T R.U. Sirius

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
A Word in Your Era: William Burroughs explains Brion Gysin’s ‘Cut-Up Method’

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I have always thought William Burroughs was a terribly superstitious man. His life was tinged by the strange, the paranormal and the occult. Whether this was his interest in the number “23”; or his hours spent gazing into mirrors in search of visions; or his belief that he could negate curses by repeating his own (“Go back, go back…” etc); or that he could, somehow, divine the future from Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up” techniques.

Of course, he couldn’t. But he was always smart enough to suggest he could (for what it’s worth), while at the same time creating distance through the wry aside, the knowing wink, to escape any suggestion he was deluded.

Put it this way, if some acquaintance buttonholed you at a party, with a relentless, monotone whine of how they closed down a Scientology office by repeatedly playing recorded tapes outside the premises, you would make your excuses and head for the canapes.

Burroughs claims as much here, in his explanation of Brion Gysin’s “Cut-Up Method.”

When you experiment with Cut-Ups over a period of time you find that some of the Cut-Ups in re-arranged texts seemed to refer to future events. I cut-up an article written by John-Paul Getty and got, “It’s a bad thing to sue your own father.” This was a re-arrangement and wasn’t in the original text, and a year later, one of his sons did sue him.

Then comes the knowing aside…

Purely extraneous information, it meant nothing to me. Nothing to gain on either side.

Before he goes on to confirm his acceptance of some mysterious powers of divination.

We had no explanation for this at the time, it just suggesting that when you cut into the Present the Future leaks out. Well, we certainly accepted it, and continued our experiments.

 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
 

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


 
More on the Burroughs, Gysin and ‘The Cut-Up Method,’ after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Books By Their Covers: Oliver Bevan’s Fabulous Op-Art Designs for Fontana Modern Masters

Fontana_Modern_Master_Books_1_10
 
In 1970, Fontana Books published the first of 7 paperback books in a series on what they termed Modern Masters - culturally important writers, philosophers and thinkers, whose work had shaped and changed modern life. It was a bold and original move, and the series launched on January 12th with books on Camus, Chomsky, Fanon, Guevara, Levi-Strauss, Lukacs, and Marcuse.

This was soon followed in 1971 with the next set of books on McLuhan, Orwell, Wittgenstein, Joyce, Freud, Reich and Yeats. And in 1972-73 with volumes on Gandhi, Lenin, Mailer, Russell, Jung, Lawrence, Beckett, Einstein, Laing, and Popper.

Fontana Modern Masters was a highly collectible series of books - not just for their opinionated content on the likes of Marx or Proust, Mailer or McLuhan, but because of Oliver Bevan’s fabulous cover designs.

This eye-catching concept for the covers came from Fontana’s art director, John Constable, who had been experimenting with a Cut-Up technique, inspired by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin and based on The Mud Bath, a key work of British geometric abstraction by the painter David Bomberg. It was only after Constable saw Oliver Bevan’s geometric, Op Art at the Grabowski Gallery in London, did Constable decide to commission Bevan to design the covers.

The first full set of books consisted of 9 titles. Each cover had a section of a Bevan painting, which consisted of rectilinear arrangements of tesselating block, the scale of which was only fully revealed when all 10 covers were placed together. Bevan designed the first ‘3 sets of 10’ from 1970-74. He was then replaced by James Lowe (1975-79) who brought his own triangular designs for books on Marx, Eliot, Pound, Sartre, Artaud and Gramsci. In 1980, Patrick Mortimer took over, with his designs based on circles.

The original Fontana Modern Masters regularly pop-up in secondhand bookshops, and are still much sought after. Over the years, I have collected about 20 different volumes, but have yet to create one complete painting. Here are a few samples, culled from my own collection and from the the web.
 
Fontana_Modern_Masters_Set
 
A small selection of Fontana Modern Master covers, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
When William Burroughs met Joy Division

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When you consider all of the famous and infamous people who William Burroughs met in his lifetime, maybe the “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” game should be adapted for the late Beat author (I’d have a “Burroughs” of one, as I met him (briefly) in Los Angeles in 1996).  At the Reality Studio blog, there’s a fascinating tale, told in great detail, about the time Joy Division shared the same stage with Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Cabaret Voltaire in Belgium:

Joy Division was given its first opportunity to play outside the United Kingdom on 16 October 1979. That alone would have distinguished the gig for the band, but of special interest to Curtis and his mates was the fact that they would be opening for Burroughs. The avant-garde theater troupe Plan K, which had made a specialty of interpreting Burroughs’ work, were founding a performance space in a former sugar refinery in Brussels, Belgium. The opening was conceived as a multimedia spectacle. Films were to be screened — among others, Nicholas Roeg’s Performance (starring Mick Jagger) and Burroughs’ own experiments with Antony Balch. The Plan K theater troupe were to perform “23 Skidoo.” Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire were to give “rock” concerts. And Burroughs and Brion Gysin were to read from their recently published book, The Third Mind.

Before the evening’s events, Burroughs and Joy Division gave separate interviews to the culture magazine En Attendant. Graciously provided to RealityStudio by the interviewer and the organizer of the Plan K opening, Michel Duval, these have been translated from the French and are reproduced here for the first time since their publication in November 1979. You can read the French original or the English translation of Duval’s interview with Joy Division, as well as the French original or the English translation of Duval’s interview with William Burroughs.

After Burroughs’ reading brought the opening of Plan K to its climax, Curtis attempted to introduce himself to his literary idol. This meeting, like so many things about both Curtis and Burroughs, has already become legend — which is another way of saying that its factual basis may have receded into darkness. If you search around the internet, you’ll see sites describing the encounter in terms like this: “Unfortunately when Ian went up to talk to him the author told Ian to get lost.” And this: “Burroughs probably was tired and bored with the concerts and when Ian went up to talk with him the author told Ian to get lost. Ian got lost immediately, not a little hurt by the rebuff.” Chris Ott’s book Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures repeats the story, and Mark Johnson’s book An Ideal for Living asserts that Burroughs refused to speak to Curtis.

To anyone familiar with Burroughs, the thought of him telling a fan to get lost is perplexing. Burroughs tended to be unfailingly courteous, even a touch “old world” in his manners. Typically he was generous with fans and admirers, particularly with young men as handsome as Ian Curtis. What could have prompted such an exchange? Was Curtis insulting? Burroughs in a bad mood? Were there mitigating circumstances?

Find out in William S. Burroughs and Joy Division (Reality Studio)
 
image
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Brion Gysin: Dream Machine at the New Museum
06.03.2010
02:46 pm

Topics:
Art
Heroes
History

Tags:
William S. Burroughs
Brion Gysin

image
 
Some artists, like Picasso and Dali, were discovered when they were young and their talents grew to maturity before the public eye. Sometimes, however it takes,,, well, dying before the art world sits up and takes notice of you, This has certainly been the case with Brion Gysin, the Canadian/British painter and author who has long stood in the shadows, figuratively speaking, of William S. Burroughs, his lifelong friend and collaborator. Burroughs once said that Brion Gysin, the inventor of the Cut-Ups literary technique was the only man he ever truly respected.

Gysin is an artist whose work must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. This is said about every artist’s work, but it’s particularly true with Brion Gysin. What might appear to be random chicken scratch calligraphy when reproduced in a book, becomes ALIVE when seen in person. Seemingly careless hash marks become scenes of hundreds of people around a bonfire or a crowded Arab marketplace when you’re staring right at it.

The man was a master. And he left an awful lot of work behind. Although there were various Gysin gallery exhibits in New York while he was still alive—I recall being astonished by some large works on paper in a great 1985 show at the Tower Gallery—there has never been a museum level retrospective of Gysin’s work in the United States until now:

Brion Gysin: Dream Machine” will be the first US survey of the work of Brion Gysin (b. 1916, Taplow, UK; d. 1986, Paris), an irrepressible innovator, serial collaborator, and subversive spirit who continues to inspire artists today. The exhibition will include over 250 drawings, books, paintings, photo-collages, films, slide projections, and sound works, as well as the Dreamachine—a kinetic light sculpture that utilizes the flicker effect to induce visions.

In 1959, Gysin created the Cut-Up Method, wherein words and phrases were randomly collaged to unlock unknown meanings, culminating in The Third Mind, a book-length collage created with his lifelong collaborator William S. Burroughs. Transferring the idea of the Cut-Up to magnetic tape, Gysin became the father of sound poetry. Throughout his life, Gysin was a collaborator and an inspiration to artists, poets, and musicians, such as John Giorno, Brian Jones, David Bowie, Patti Smith, Genesis-P-Orridge, and Keith Haring.

More than two decades after his death, his work continues to attract the interest of a new generation of artists drawn to Gysin’s radical inderdisciplinarity, including Rirkrit Tiravanija, Cerith Wyn Evans, Trisha Donnelly, and Scott Treleaven. The exhibition is curated by Laura Hoptman, Kraus Family Senior Curator, and will be on view in the New Museum’s second-floor gallery. It will be accompanied by an illustrated catalogue co-published with Hugh Merrell, Ltd. which will include scholarly essays and appreciations by contemporary artists, musicians, and poets.

Video below, a trailer for FLicKer a Canadian documentary about Gysin directed by Nik Sheehan, in which I make a brief appearance.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Cracking Open The Sheltering Sky

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Today’s NYT alerts us to the 60th (!) anniversary of Paul Bowles’ novel The Sheltering Sky.  A race to the limits of experience—and existence—set against North Africa’s unforgiving desert, Sky gave Bowles the means to live with the absolute freedom of his two most famous characters, Port and Kit Moresby.  That freedom would ultimately consume the Moresbys, but Bowles, along with his wife, Jane, lived out their years in Tangier, experimenting with hashish and bisexuality, and nurturing friendships with everyone from Gore Vidal to William Burroughs and Brion Gysin.

It was with Gysin that Bowles met The Master Musicians of Jajouka, a discovery that would later yield Brian Jones Presents: The Pipes of Pan at Jajouka.  Dubbed, dryly, by Burroughs as a “4000-year-old rock band,” The Masters can be seen below playing at the 40th anniversary of Brian Jones’ death.

 
In the NYT: Trusting in the Sheltering Sky, Even When It Scorched

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment