MACBA 1996-1998

William Burroughs. March 1997

  • Calling all Active Agents
    "Some time ago I made the following challenge: give me ten years and a billion dollars for research and I promise some answers. But I don´t have the billion dollars and may not have the ten years either, so I´ve developed certain techniques. First and foremost is to rcognize writing as an act of Magic..."

    The author: William S. Burroughs (Saint Louis. USA, 1914) has written, among other works: “Junkie”, “The Naked Lunch”, “Nova Express”, "The Soft Machine", "Exterminator!", " The Last Words of Duch Schultz", "Cities of the Red Night", "The Western Lands", Recognized as one of the most characteristic writers of the USA, Burroughs has spent the better part o0f his life far from his country (in Mexico, South America, Tangier,...). His writng, in continuous movement and experimentation, has used, as a fundamental part, the tone and images of the so-called “pulp fiction”, grade B literature, which allows him to mix personal pain or the most acid criticism with humor, to reach different levels of reader, and to undo from the start and “literary” pretensions. An often solitary character, distanced from the “cultural movements” he has refused to take part in, he has nonetheless established numerous, essential personal collaborations with Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouack, Herbert Huncke, Gregory Corso, John Giorno, Bryon Gysin, Ornette Coleman, Anthony Balch...and most recently Psychic TV, Laurie Anderson, Gus Van Sant, David Cronenberg...; collaborations which have allowed him to transcend the field of literature, entering the fields of painting, music, film,...developing spaces and metal imagery which without doubt were already present in his written work. Since the early 70’s his theory has been that “ the word is literally a virus, and if it hasn´t been rcognized as such it is because it has achieved a state of relatively stable simbiosis with its human host (...) perfectly fitting the most basic definition of virus: an organism with no other internal function but its own reproduction” ... something that, unlike other organisms, can´t make it on its own, but only through a host. Through living life to its extremes, of which he is an incredible survivor, Burroughs strikes down the notion of culture or identity as “homes” for thought or the subject. Through his work they appear to be a second nature, but in its most savage aspect, often hostile and violent; spaces that are first and foremost unknown, subject to constant battles for domination. The double-edged sword of pleasure, of drugs,...as liberation/exploration, and as finely honed instruments of control and destruction. Murderous states and eneny agents who infiltrate the individual through their most private identity...the same things which would later be applied by advertising and the language of mass media. The techniques of the cut-up, a reinterpretation which he borrowed from his friend Bryon Gysin: cut...recompose, scarrify,...the appropriation of pre-existing materials , many from mass media...the notion of a “pre-recorded” world...also mark his “entryways” into the independent visual discourse. "Listen to my last words everywhere, listen to my last words in every world. Listen all of you corporate boards and governments of Earth, and you powers protected by dirty agreements consummated in some toilet to grab what doesn´t belong to you. To once and for all sell the floor out from under the feet of those yet to be born".

    Burroughs: the Movie. Howard Brookner, USA, 1984, 1h30’
    An extensive and detailed documentary on Burroughs, with Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, John Giorno, Patti Smith, his son Bill Burroughs, Jr, with scenes from different films (hypnotism, “hardcore”, experimental, etc.) and readings of fragments from his books. Howard Brookner, screenwriter, documentarist and filmmaker, wrote, among other things, some never broadcast screenplays for the series Max Headroom.

    Thanksgiving. Gus Van Sant, USA, 1990, 1h3’
    Burroughs words for Thanksgiving Day, produced by Gus Van Sant, one of the filmmakers with whom Burroughs has frequently collaborated, making appearances in almost all his films (for example, as the junkie priest in Drugstore Cowboy).

    Towers Open Fire. Anthony Balch, Great Britain, made in the 1950’s and 60’s, 50’.
    Ghosts at 9. Anthony Balch, Psychic TV. Made in the 50’s and 60’s, 50’.
    Both films are a demonstration of the different collaborations between Burroughs, Anthony Balch, Ian Sommerville, Genesis P-Orridge (Psychic TV) and Bryon Gysin. Anthony Balch (London,1930), made his first short at 17, an ad for Kit-e-Kat for television. For a while he dedicated himself to importing pornography into the Uk, a seroiusly punished offense. Parallel to his independent film work, he has helped produce other filmmakers, such as Ed Wood, Tod Browning, and Roger Corman.