Tag Archives | William S. Burroughs

William S. Burroughs: Paint it Blacker

As many readers of these here illuminated letters surely know, the great author/Beat ghost/junky/exterminator William S. Burroughs also added the title of “painter” to his resume before his death in 1997. He began painting in his later years while living in Lawrence Kansas, but his relationship with painting and painters began much earlier.

I like to trace Burroughs’ origins as a painter back to his 1959 meeting with Brion Gysin. Gysin was also a polymath and his written work is as underrated as his paintings were during his lifetime. Gysin died in 1986 and while his sometimes-stunning prose has yet to be reconsidered, the publication of a few great books and the organizing of gallery retrospectives have seen his visual art getting the respect it deserves all these years later. Of course, Burroughs was way ahead of the curve: “I don’t think I’d seen painting until I saw the painting of Brion Gysin,” he once snarled.… Read the rest

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Wallace Berman’s Kabbalah Cinema

Wallace Berman was born in Staten Island, New York in 1926. While he was still a child, he correctly predicted that he would die on his 50th birthday. He was hit by a car in 1976.

During those five decades, Berman became a pioneering assemblage artist as well as one of the cornerstones of the post WWII California art scene. Berman became associated with the Beats and his self-published magazine Semina combined his own collage imagery with writing by luminaries like Michael McClure, Philip Lamantia, David Meltzer, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jean Cocteau. In addition to his groundbreaking, multimedia assemblages, Berman made the short film Aleph. The artist’s only experiment with moving pictures,Aleph reveals both Berman’s love of collage as well as his interest in the Kabbalah.

Here is what www.jewishmuseum.org has to say about the film:

Aleph is an artist’s meditation on life, death, mysticism, politics, and pop culture.Read the rest

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W. S. Burroughs Restored

Viruses are obligatory cellular parasites and are thus wholly dependant upon the integrity of the cellular systems they parasitize for their survival in an active state. It is something of a paradox that many viruses ultimately destroy the cells in which they are living…

- from “Virus Adaptibility and Host Resistance” by G. Belyavin, as qouted by William S. Burroughs in The Electronic Revolution: Feedback from Watergate to the Garden of Eden

“What we are up against: liars with no honesty or integrity or decency, just plain bastards…”

- William S. Burroughs, from Last Words

William S. Burroughs’ post-mortem existence is predicated on the maintenance of his mediated body, and one of his current hosts is in need of restoration. Howard Brookner’s documentary, Burroughs: The Movie, originally released in 1985 by Giorno Poetry Systems, has been out of print for quite some time. Long available only at a collectors price, and in the original VHS, Brookner’s nephew, Aaron Brookner, has created a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the release of a digitally re-mastered version taken from an original archival print of the documentary:

“Our aim is to remaster and re-release the first long feature documentary ever made about literary icon William S.

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William S. Burroughs, Cat Fancier

William S. Burroughs loved his cats. The outlaw author known for his unabashed avant-sexual space operas and hyper-spatial exploratory prose wasn’t one to apologize for his utter disgust over a society he saw crumbling under the iron claws of Control. However, behind the icy eyed visage of ‘El Hombre Invisible’ was a heart warmed with the gentle purrs of his coveted feline companions.

As Yony Leyser, director of the critically acclaimed bio-pic Williams S. Burroughs: A Man Within, discusses in an article for Vice, understanding Burroughs’ cats is central to understanding the man behind the myth:

“Author William S. Burroughs made his love for all things feline known in his book The Cat Inside, in which he refers to cats as “psychic companions” and innate “enemies of the state.” In his final journal entry, written just before he died, Burroughs discusses love as the ultimate cure-all. I feature the quote in my documentary William S.

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Burroughs to Capote: You Have Placed Your Services at the Disposal of Interests Who Are Turning America Into a Police State

Letters of Note has reproduced a scathing letter from outlaw beat writer William S. Burroughs (Naked Lunch, Junkie, The Soft Machine, etc.) to Truman Capote upon the publication of his novel In Cold Blood:

I have read the recent exchange of genialities between Mr Kenneth Tynan and yourself. I feel that he was much too lenient. Your recent appearance before a senatorial committee on which occasion you spoke in favor of continuing the present police practice of extracting confessions by denying the accused the right of consulting consul prior to making a statement also came to my attention. In effect you were speaking in approval of standard police procedure: obtaining statements through brutality and duress, whereas an intelligent police force would rely on evidence rather than enforced confessions. You further cheapened yourself by reiterating the banal argument that echoes through letters to the editor whenever the issue of capital punishment is raised: “Why all this sympathy for the murderer and none for his innocent victims?”

This is perhaps the kindest part of the letter.… Read the rest

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The LSD Portraits: Marc Franklin Spends 25 Years Photographing ‘Psychedelic Pioneers’

BurroughsRemember the Reagan administration’s “This is your brain on drugs” ads? In response a photographer started a lifelong project of photographing all the living “psychedelic pioneers,” including Timothy Leary, Jerry Garcia, William S. Burroughs, and Ken Kesey.

“I thought, ‘You know, that’s such a load of horseshit … I’m going to dismantle that poisonous propaganda lie visually… I’m going to portray these people how they are.” He started with the man who invented LSD — Albert Hoffman — on its 50th anniversary in 1988, and at one point drove over 11,000 miles in just 7 weeks (including a 26-hour drive to drink beer with William S. Burroughs).

He’s interviewed by the former editor of High Frontiers magazine (“the official psychedelic magazine of the 1984 Summer Olympics.)”, and the article includes three of his best photos. (He’s exhibiting them this month in Los Angeles). But the strangest fact of all?

He started his career taking photographs for the annual report of Mobil Oil!… Read the rest

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Happy Halloween from William S. Burroughs (Remix Video)

William S. BurroughsOnce upon a time, there were witches ... in this classic remix, the silent film Haxan is wed in an unholy matrimony to the laconic snarl of William S. Burroughs narrative aplomb. For those of you with a big appetite, we've got a special sweet hidden away. Check out this great little recitation of Poe's "The Red Death" — also read by William S. Burroughs — at Joe Nolan's Insomnia.
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Storytelling As A National Security Issue?

darpaDavid Metcalfe writes on Modern Mythology:

“If I were a betting man or woman, I would say that certain types of stories might be addictive and, neurobiologically speaking, not that different from taking a tiny hit of cocaine.”

—William Casebeer of the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

Despite the fact that it’s readily apparent Mr. Casebeer has never tried cocaine, DARPA’s current interest in narratives is an interesting development at an agency known for unique scientific inquiries. On April 25 and 26th DARPA held a conference called Narrative Networks (N2): The Neurobiology of Narratives. The purpose of this conference was to follow up a Feburary 26th event which sought to outline a quantitative methodology for measuring the effect of storytelling on human action.

We owe much of the early development of the internet to DARPA, along with remote viewing, remote controlled moths, invisibility cloaks and other wonders of the contemporary age.

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“Mutate or Die”: Bio-Art Project Turns William S. Burroughs’ Turd Into Living Organism

Mutate Or Die!This is truly bizarre, but a seemingly fitting tribute to the Naked Lunch author. Adam Zaretsky and Tony Allard describe the project on h+ magazine:

“When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.” — Brion Gysin/W.S. Burroughs, Third Mind

“Mutate or Die” is a bioart project being conceived of and executed by Tony Allard and Adam Zaretsky. Bioart tends to use cutting edge biotechnology as an art making device and specializes in presenting living organisms as art. In this project, a DNA sample from William S. Burroughs will be isolated, amplified and shot into the nuclei of some cells.

What is the process?

1: Take a glob of William S. Burroughs’ preserved shit
2: Isolate the DNA with a kit
3: Make, many, many copies of the DNA we extract
4: Soak the DNA in gold dust
5: Load the DNA dust into a genegun (a modified air pistol)
6: Fire the DNA dust into a mix of fresh sperm, blood and shit
7: Call the genetically modified mix of blood, shit, and sperm a living bioart, a new media paint, a living cut-up literary device and/or a mutant sculpture.Of course the process is more involved and detailed than this.

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