Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Terry Wilson's "Perilous Passage" is re-published: "flashing zigzagging comic helix punctuating language"

I shift my gaze back to twisted vertiginous snakes vines chromosomes entwined labyrinths as ever flashing zigzagging comic helix punctuating language spelling out the same message again like a tickertape symbol control system processed by a hebephrenic computer high on aguardiente. ("Ends," Terry Wilson)

From the ever-expanding consciousness at Psychedelic Press UK comes this welcome dispatch:

Originally published in 2004, Perilous Passage: The Nervous System and the Universe in Other Words by Terry Wilson is being republished in 2012. It describes the author’s apprenticeship under the tutelage of the avant-garde artist and writer Brion Gysin; along with a wonderful passage about Wilson’s experiences in South America with ayahuasca. The book is the final part of his ‘Green Base Trilogy’, which includes Dreams of Green Base (1986) and ‘‘D’ Train (1985). He has also previously published Here to Go (2001), a book of interviews with Gysin that documented his life, work and philosophy.

While living in Paris at 9 Rue Git-Le-Coeur in the late 1950s, Brion Gysin accidentally sliced through some newspapers with a knife and became fascinated with the resulting jumble of text -- half of one sentence became the end of another, unrelated one. He began to experiment with this technique, slicing up newsprint, books, and other materials. He refered to these as "cut-ups," and when he demonstrated the process to William Burroughs, Burroughs asked if he could try it himself. "Go ahead, that's what it's for," Gysin replied.

Unwittingly, Gysin handed Burroughs a writing tool that he would use extensively in his career (The Ticket That Exploded, The Soft Machine, Nova Express and Exterminator). He achieved such infamy that Burroughs -- although he was careful to credit Gysin as often as possible -- became famous for the cut-up technique, while Gysin (whose multifaceted career as a musician, writer, painter, and calligrapher contines to defy categories) went on to write The Process (1971) and The Last Museum, an edited version of a much larger work about the fate of 9 Rue-Le-Coeur itself, published posthumously in 1986.

When Perilous Passage was originally published by Synergetic Press in 2004, the publisher described it as events just prior to and after Gysin's death in 1986: This book details the extreme psychic "Third Mind" effects known as The Process, and includes transcribed audio hallucinations, notes, cut-ups, the interview format, and collaged material. Perilous Passage is a cautionary tale about the uses and abuses of power, a paranoid espionage thriller. Like Gysin and Burroughs, Wilson treats language itself as a parasitic invader which must be resisted, broken up and reassembled. This book is about how the magic was passed on and carried into the future.

In order to show Burroughs the extraordinary possibilities of juxtaposing text-on-text, while in Paris Gysin experimented with the cut-up technique on audio tape (heard here) as well as print. Describing this in an interview published in Terry Wilson's book Here to Go: Planet R-101, Gysin says:

I suggested to William that we use only the best, only the high-charged material: King James' translation of the "Song of Songs" of Solomon, Eliot's translation of "Anabasis" by St. John-Perse, Shakespeare's sugared "Sonnets" and a few lines from "The Doors of Perception" by Aldous Huxley, about his mescaline experiences.

The result -- as can be expected from such diverse sources -- is at once mysterious and glorious, beautiful, and maybe the finest example of the cut-up process Gysin himself created. Unfortunately, it was never published in its entirety during his lifetime. An excerpt appeared in the Burroughs/Gysin cut-up collaboration The Third Mind (1978) and mistakenly credited to Burroughs -- once more undercutting Gysin's contribution.

In one interview Gysin put his multimedia career in perspective by saying the art world thought of him as a writer, and the writers thought of him as an artist. "I should have been one or the other," he said, somewhat ruefully. By the 1980s, he was a performer as well -- he'd written for Broadway in the '40s, but here he was onstage singing new lyrics he'd written and describing himself as "the world's oldest living rock star."

It's all the more ironic that Gysin's work remains largely undiscovered in this multimedia age his work helped create. His legacy, long overshadowed by others of more fame or infamy, remains elusive as ever.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

More about Terry Wilson, his writing of 'Perilous Passage' (plus 'Dreams of Green Base' and ''D' Train'), also the impact of the legacy of William S Burroughs & Brion Gysin on his life & work can be read about in an in-depth article 'Apprentice to an Apprentice: The Perilous Passage of Terry Wilson' online here: http://www.beatdom.com/?p=1838