Friday, July 19, 2013

Beat Visionary: Brion Gysin

My newest HPB art book purchase -- more art about patterns and networks:

Gadfly or Genius?  -- Genius!

Brion Gysin: Tuning in to the Multimedia Age by Jose Ferez Kuri (Editor)

This comprehensive biography presents the achievements of Brion Gysin, a multi-faceted artist whose work has influenced performers such as David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

Recalling the heady atmosphere of the so-called Beat Hotel in Paris in the late 1950s and 1960s, it features first-hand reminiscences by contemporaries, plus a biographical essay and chronological listings.

The book explains the invention of the cut-up technique and Brion Gysin's productive literary collaboration with William Burroughs. As well as looking at his work as a sound poet and performance artist, it features reproductions of his paintings and graphics, and examples of his permutated poems and other writings.

From Publishers Weekly:
Brion Gysin (1916-1986) was a U.S.-born cultural provocateur whose first 40 years found him, after a Canadian adolescence, flitting from career to career, as poet, painter, set designer (he assisted Irene Sharaff on a sheaf of major Broadway musicals in the 1940s), historian of the system of slavery in Canada and international gadabout in the homosexual coterie of Paul Bowles, Denham Fouts and Cecil Beaton.

When he became involved with William S. Burroughs at the so-called "Beat Hotel" in Paris in 1959, Gysin made a leap into literary and hipster history by inventing the "cut-up," joining together ripped sections of newspaper to form a nonlinear yet theoretically readable text. (Burroughs used this method, he claimed, in writing his novels The Soft Machine and Nova Express.)

Gysin also invented the "Dream Machine," a strobe-heavy sort of orgone box designed to drive its users into the systematic derangement of the senses foretold by Rimbaud.

The debate about Gysin will always be whether he was a lightweight gadfly or a great Leonardo-type genius with tragically limited appreciation of his accomplishments.

This book, coming out of a 1998 Gysin retrospective at the Edmonton Art Gallery, includes a plethora of Gysin documents and suggestive texts by a variety of art writers and Gysin geeks, should put Gysin's detractors on the defensive.

He did everything, and most of it's here: He showed with Picasso, posed for Carl Van Vechten, led Brian Jones to the Pipes of Boujouka in Morocco, preached the gospel of kif, recorded a kind of spoken-word jazz with Steve Lacy and used the Dream Machine to help design dozens of abstract "calligraphic" pictures (among 195 color and 60 b&w illustrations here).

The individual reader, of course, will decide whether it all means anything-or everything.

About the Author
Jose Ferez Kuri has been researching the life and work of Brion Gysin since 1986; in 1998 he was co-curator of the major Gysin retrospective held at the Edmonton Art Gallery.

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