Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Liam O'Gallagher, 1917-2007

Liam O'Gallagher: Self-Portrait (1960)

Writer, sound poet and artist Liam O'Gallagher's influences -- and his influence on others -- spanned decades. From the 1940s, when Abstract Expressionism took root, to his death in December when he was working on paintings he described, in his own words, as "the surreal aspects of space science," O'Gallagher displayed a knack for being in the right place at the right time. In three years, 1945-1948, he lived among other artists and writers in Monterey Peninsula, studied Abstract Expressionism with Hans Hoffman in New York, and by 1948 was back in California, where he taught art at Ojai's Happy Valley School founded by J. Krishnamurti and Aldous Huxley.

His trajectory included dance collaborations, performance pieces (the directory-assistance operator audio montage Border Dissolve in Audiospace premiered on KPFA in 1970) and experiments in concrete poetry. In the 1950s his art found a welcome in the freewheeling Beat scene of San Francisco; by 1983 the restless O'Gallagher had returned to San Francisco and Telegraph Hill after collaborating in the creation of a yoga retreat center (Feathered Pipe Ranch) in the Montana mountains.

Liam O'Gallagher: "Merge"

"... a black canvas signals interstellar space
it is our emotions that give shape to invisible worlds"

O'Gallagher was also a futurist. In his poetry and other writings he was a champion of the "invisible worlds" that can be revealed by the mind, a believer in randomness (he was a practitioner of the cut-up technique in poetry) and that information "need not be comprehensible to be revelatory":

"In dark matter the random factor
is where the unhinged achieve this orbit
and the unspeakable app
ears in a biological library
to answer questions about the meltdown."

As described by William Gray Harris, "His concrete poetry and cut-up writings ... heralded a future of artificial intelligence, space migration, and expanding consciousness" (and with an ecological conscience as well; O'Gallagher's 1969 performance piece, "Return Trip," presented a voyage back to the moon to return the rocks and pick up the litter left by the NASA crew, accompanied by an electronic soundtrack). He saw technology in new ways, too: "People's Opera" was scored for telephones, transistor radios, and instrumental soloists on tambourine, oboe, flute, and French horn. His published collections include a compilation of poetry and performance scores, The Blue Planet Notebooks (1972); Planet Noise (1969); and Fool Consciousness (1986).

Liam O'Gallagher: Chinatown (1960)

O'Gallagher's admired yogi, Sri Aurobindo, provides the epitaph for this intrepid traveler of inner- and outer-space: "an inch of experience goes farther than a yard of logic."


Anonymous said...

It has always been good to have guidance, and even better to have guidance for guidance.


M Bromberg said...

Guidance for guidance: a wonderful phrase. Whatever resonates in us about art becomes a way to go. Why do we like this particular book, what is it about that painting? Even when the meaning is "incomprehensible," after we find the way, the mind makes connections that make us think in new ways: call it a form of lucid dreaming.