Thursday, February 11, 2016

Brion Gysin | Dream Machine

Brion Gysin
Dream Machine, 2012
18cm x 18cm x 66cm
Edition of 500

The "first artwork designed to be seen with your eyes closed" was conceived on a bus ride
by Brion Gysin in 1958.

"[I] had a transcendental storm of colour visions today in the bus going to Marseilles," wrote the artist/author, in a diary entry from December 21st, 1958. "We ran through a long avenue of trees and I closed my eyes against the setting sun. An overwhelming flood of intensely bright colors exploded behind my eyelids: a multidimensional kaleidoscope whirling out through space. I was swept out of time. I was out in a world of infinite number. The vision stopped abruptly as we left the trees. Was that a vision? What happened to me?"

Gysin was born in England to Canadian parents and grew up in Edmonton, Alberta. He is best known for his "discovery" of the cut-up method of writing popularized by his close friend William S. Burroughs, who employed the technique in books such as Naked Lunch and Interzone. The Beat author once remarked "Brion Gysin was the only man I ever respected."

When Gysin wrote him about his unusual experience, Burroughs replied "We must storm the citadels of enlightenment, the means are at hand". He also sent Gysin a copy of the The Living Brain by Dr. W. Grey Walter, a neurophysiologist, which described the effect of flickering light on the brain. A shared friend, Ian Sommerville, had also read the book and wrote to Gysin in 1959 announcing that he had produced a protoype of the machine based on Gysin's descriptions:

"I have made a simple flicker machine. You look at it with your eyes shut and the flicker plays over your eyelids. Visions start with a kaleidoscope of colors on a plane in front of the eyes and gradually become more complex and beautiful, breaking like surf on a shore until whole patterns of color are pounding to get in. After awhile the visions were permanently behind my eyelids and I was in the middle of the whole scene with limitless patterns being generated around me. There was an almost unbearable feeling of spatial movement for a while but It was well worth getting through for I found that when it stopped I was high above the earth in a universal blaze of glory. Afterwards I found that my perception of the world around me had increased very notably. All conceptions of being dragged or tired had dropped away..."

From Sommerville's description, Gysin built the Dreamachine in early 1960 in the Beat Hotel in Paris, and obtained a patent the following year.

The Dreamachine consists of a lightbulb inside a cylinder on a 78 RPM turntable. Subjects face the cylinder with their eyes closed and light flickers on the eyelids at a frequency of about 20 Hz, stimulating the optic nerve and altering the brain's electrical oscillations. Users are said to experience increasingly bright, complex patterns of colour behind their closed eyelids.

Aldous Huxley remarked: “The Dreamachine is an aid to visionary experience.” According to, who has produced this new version in an edition of 500 copies, other proponents of the device include David Bowie, Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain, Laurie Anderson, Steve Lacy, Keith Haring, Allen Ginsberg, Iggy Pop, Bruce Labruce, Marianne Faithfull, Kenneth Anger, Beck and Floria Sigismondi. The site features testimonials by John Giorno, Dj Spooky, Genesis P-Orridge and many others.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Richard Prince | Loud Song

Richard Prince
Loud Song
New York City, USA: 303inprint, 2016
12" LP
Edition of 250 signed copies

"Loud Song was recorded in Venice Beach California in a house that I rented in the winter of 1985.
I recorded the song on an electric keyboard.
I used two cassette tape recorders.
I Would play the keyboard and record what was played on the first cassette.
Then I would play what I recorded and play more keyboard and record both sounds on the second cassette.
Then I would play back what I recorded on the second cassette and play more keyboard and record all that onto the first cassette.
It was like I was using the cassette players as musicians.
I would record this way until the song got really loud.
At the time I was under contract with Warner Bros.
My job was to try to write “hit” songs. At least that’s what I thought my job was.
Nothing I wrote for this job ever appeared on a record."

"Loud Song was self-recorded in 1985 in Venice California. My band at the time, “Him,” played once in 1980 at Jenny Holzer’s loft at one of her “band parties.” By the time I had recorded “Loud Song” in 1985 I had reduced the members of Him to one. By 1986 I reduced the only remaining member to no one."
- Richard Prince

Previously released (in 2013) as a CD single, Gallery 303 will be launching a new special limited edition vinyl version of Prince's 1985 sound work at the LA Art Book Fair later this week. 

In 2004 Prince designed the cover for Sonic Youth's LP Sonic Nurse. Here, Kim Gordon returns the favour, designing a new cover for the 2016 release. The original graphic (below) now appears in the LP as a fold-out poster. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Katie Paterson | Lightbulb to Simulate Moonlight

Katie Paterson
Lightbulb to Simulate Moonlight
London, UK: Bookworks, 2008
25 x 16 x 11 cm.
Edition of 10

Katie Paterson’s research-based projects often see her collaborating with specialists from the fields of astronomy, astrophysics, genetics, and nanotechnology. For the installation work Lightbulb to Simulate Moon Light, Paterson worked with engineers to determine the spectral measurements of moonlight. They took light-meter readings, analyzed wavelengths, and found an appropriate surface coating in order to produce a bulb that emits rays approximating the light of a full moon.

Paterson commissioned OSRAM Licht AG, a multi-national lighting manufacturer based in Munich, to manufacture the 28 W bulbs with a lifespan of 2,000 hours. The work is exhibited and sold as a wooden crate containing 289 bulbs, which corresponds to the average human life expectancy of 66 years (based on 2008 estimates). Each time the work (produced in an edition of nine copies) is exhibited - with a single bulb burning in the gallery - the lifespan of the artwork is shortened.

This version from Bookworks contains two of the bulbs in a cloth-covered, letter-pressed box.

Monday, February 8, 2016

This week on Tumblr: Giorno Poetry Systems

After befriending artists such as Andy Warhol (who cast him in Sleep and the unreleased Handjob), Roy Lichtenstein, John Cage and Merce Cunningham, John Giorno came to believe that poetry was lagging far behind the advancements being made in visual art, music and dance.

Determined to reach a broader audience, Giorno founded the free Dial-a-Poem series, and founded Giorno Poetry Systems. The non-profit record label released a series of recordings from 1972 to 1989.

Artists often designed the packaging: many of the performer portraits were taken by Les Levine and both Keith Haring and Robert Williams contributed cover illustrations. The discs included spoken word, audio art and the occasional pop performer (Nick Cave, New Order, Patti Smith, Frank Zappa, etc.). Artists/authors/composers included Laurie Anderson, William S Burroughs, Philip Glass, Diamanda Galás, Allen Ginsberg, Jim Carroll, Lydia Lunch, John Cage, Anne Waldman, and Brion Gysin.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Mike Kelley | Reconstructed History

Mike Kelley
Reconstructed History
Cologne, Germany:  Galerie Gisela Capitain, 1990
136 pp., 32 x 24 cm., hardcover
Edition of 250 signed and numbered copies

Designed to resemble an embossed high school yearbook (with a removable mylar dust jacket containing adolescent doodles), Reconstructed History presents a series of iconic American photographs, defaced with crude drawings and marginalia.

The collection of heroic idealized images of a shared American heritage are culled from scholastic textbooks, all altered with puerile scrawlings, mostly sexual and scatological.

"Here we have a collection of grotesqueries, defacements of some of the most cherished images of our American past," Kelley writes in the introduction, on faux parchment paper, emulating a colonial design. "Who could be responsible for such defilements? What could be the purpose of tarnishing the heroic figures and events we hold so dear?"

Historical figures are seen sporting elongated noses and erections. The Statue of Liberty appears twice: first with added breasts, pubic hair and 'stink lines' emanating from the armpit of her raised torch arm, and later as a phallus with the addition of crudely drawn testicles and ejaculate. The Washington Monument and Empire State Building suffer similar fates.

A gold rush prospector defecates in a stream while panning for gold. The Declaration of Independence is covered in vomit. Speech bubbles convey sentiments such as "Your horse is hung heavier", "Sniff my finger" and "Eat Shit Dad".

 Kelley notes that this is not the work of "candidates for a revolutionary youth army or satanic murder cult", but rather grade school students. But - in addition to some recurring motifs - the handwriting appears remarkably consistent throughout. 

Unlike the bawdy cartoons, Kelley’s essay employs the jargon and tone of psychoanalysis. He asserts that the lewd doodles go beyond schoolyard mischief:

“Childish resentment is the cause of the defacements presented here. The inability to accept their lower position in the order of things provokes these ‘artists’ to drag back to the surface garbage long buried–to sully, vandalize, and render inoperable our pictures of health. Not that such a tactic is always bad.” 

The rare title (with an estimated value of between five and six thousand dollars) is available in the Joan Flasch Artists' Books collection, here. A video documenting the book can be seen on Vimeo, here.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bill Burns | Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us

Bill Burns
Hans Ulrich Obrist Hear Us
London, UK/Toronto, Canada: Blackdog Publishing/YYZ Books, 2015
224 pp., 23.4 x 16 x 3 cm., hardcover
Edition size unknown

Hans-Ulrich Obrist Hear Us features an episodic and humorous autobiography,  illustrations of the artist's work, and texts by Dannys Montes de Oca Moreda, Dan Adler and Jennifer Allen.

On Friday February 12th, from 3 to 4pm, Burns will read from the book at the L.A. Art Book Fair, followed by a conversation with curator and writer Tyler Stallings. Burns and Stallings will speculate on "toadyism and hagiography with particular reference to the artist, the curator, the collector, and the art museum."

For more information on Burns, visit here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Sol Lewitt | Table

Sol Lewitt
Chicago, USA: The Renaissance Society, 1998
113.75" x 46.25" x 29.75"
Edition of 10

A steel dining table with a glass top, available from the publisher, here, for $40,000.00.