Brion Gysin

I could chatter on at great length about Brion Gysin, whose work I first encountered in my teenage years when I read the beat writers and in particular William Burroughs, who I was happy to discover utilised his warped talents in a variety of different media. Gysin was a profound influence on Burroughs creatively and personally. Actually, it turns out that Gysin was a profound influence on many people much more famous than himself, as it seems most people find out about him through their exploration of the work of others.

Anyway, earlier this summer I visited the New Museum exhibition of his work (which ends this week) and it prompted me to re-read Terry Wilson's book of 30 year old interviews conducted with Gysin entitled Here To Go. The title itself references Gysin's answer to the question "What are we here for?"

The answer is of course, "We are Here To Go."

There is a passage in this book that has always stuck with me since I first read it. I had to order a new copy as my original one was lent out and disappeared a long time ago. Having just finished the re-read I thought I'd share the passage in question. Still one of my favourites in the book.

TERRY WILSON - I see here an article about "Copier Art" in which you are quoted. What's that all about?

BRION GYSIN - About nothing at all. Even less than the "Emperor's New Clothes"... which have been hanging on the museum clotheslines for too long. All that shit was replaced by so-called Conceptual Art, which I call Deceptual Art. There is, literally, nothing to it but some cancerous growth out of the Me generation of Americans who were "Spocked" by the ideas of that dumb permissive addle-headed doctor Spock. As Warhol said, anybody can now be a genius for nearly five minutes and a superstar for 15 minutes of public exposure by the media. It will last a little longer if there's a mass product to sell. The trouble with Deceptual Art was that there was a very thin product and even that so ephemeral that no collector in his right mind would want to "invest" in it. All this technological rubbish that has been spewing up from video to polaroid to newly-dubbed "Electroworks" does sell the electronic equipment involved to an over-affluent society of idle housewives who need an "outlet" in programmed "creativity", a way of burning up the bread of the starving Third World and the Fourth and the Fifth on an electric toaster. All this decorative garbage they turn out is what they can pick and choose from as they rollerskate through the air-conditioned supermarket of the arts. It's like painting with numbers and it should stop at the kindergarten. It's not that these things make creation too easy - they have nothing to do with creativity. This is the ugly flab on a fatcat society that burns up everybody else's calories of psychic energy and leaves the whole world impoverished, not enriched.

TERRY WILSON - You have not only practiced photography and incorporated it into your paintings but written and published in french a long text about photography... That means you take it seriously-

BRION GYSIN - Of course I take it seriously. With photography began the whole insane proliferation of images. Previous the the 19th century, most people saw at most one image a week at church or once a year on a pilgrimage. Now images flow past us and through us by the multiple millions, daily. What does that mean and what has it done to us: none of us is quite sure, even now. we have seen revered objects and even whole countries fade under the assault of picture postcards and tourist cameras. in our day, things which had endured from all time have been burnt down, absorbed, obliterated as sure as the beaches of Bali have been overrun by hippies on motorbikes who pass out on speedballs in temples they burn down with an abandoned roach before they catch their cheap charter back home. Get it while it lasts. Use it all up.

And so it goes on.

The guy was clearly off his rocker, but goddamn it if he wasn't right about so many things so I'll have to put him in that raving genius category. He should be on the reading list of every creative arts college course but then if he was the students would probably realise how much of a sham the whole creative arts industry really is.

As he says, "This is the ugly flab on a fatcat society that burns up everybody else's calories of psychic energy and leaves the whole world impoverished, not enriched."

I urge you all to check out some Gysin. I can certainly guess what he would of made of the state of things today.

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