Looking through my files, I see more than a dozen videotapes hidden away in the dark recess of a book shelf. Off the top of my head, I didn’t recall making as many. But there they are, most of them dating from 1971 and 1972. They document the works and views of a handful of writers and artists, among them William S. Burroughs and filmmaker Antony Balch in London; Allen Ginsberg in San Francisco; action-sound poet Bernard Heidsieck and critic/journalist Rafael Sorin in Paris; Fluxus artist Alison Knowles in Vermont; even one of my own video pieces.
To be looking back like this must be a sign of age or dementia, or both. Anyway, here’s what I found:
WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS
Recorded live at WSB’s London flat (8 Duke St., St. James, London) on Dec. 21, 1971. Approx. 10 minutes.
Burroughs’s face is transformed via Balch’s film projection of other faces on his. The result is seen and heard with a live soundtrack in the video recording by Herman as an illustration of propaganda techniques. Antony Balch was an experimental filmmaker (“Towers Open Fire,” etc.) who often collaborated with Burroughs.
WSB talked about this video with Robert Palmer in “Rolling Stone Interviews William Burroughs.” It was published in Rolling Stone (108: 34-39) on May 11, 1972. This is what he said:
“Jan Herman was here with his little video camera outfit and we did quite a precise experiment, which was: Antony brought up the Bill and Tony film, I sat there, and he projected it onto my face, which was re-photographed on the video camera, but that faded in and out so that it would be that face, then fade back to the now face, so that you got a real time section. We wanted to project it onto the television screen from the camera, but we couldn’t because the cycles were different; Antony and Jan Herman were fooling around and they managed to suck up the television. But even seeing it on a little view screen, it was something quite extraordinary.”
I don’t recall screwing up Uncle Bill’s TV, but maybe we did. Palmer’s interview is reprinted in Burroughs Live: The Collected Interviews of William S. Burroughs 1960-1997.
Burroughs/Sommerville/Mottram /Herman Discussion
Recorded live at WSB’s London flat (8 Duke St., St. James, London) on Dec. 18, 1971.
Three tapes: 1) approx. 15 minutes; 2) approx. 20 minutes; 3) approx. 20 minutes.
Combination of discussions and interviews among Burroughs, Ian Sommerville (WSB’s longtime companion and, with Brion Gysin, creator of “the dream machine”); Eric Mottram (British literary scholar, critic, poet, and professor of English and American Literature at King’s College London); and Herman. Live recording includes slices of TV and images of Sommerville’s own apartment. The conversations range widely about Burroughs’s theories and includes some discussion of “subliminal” propaganda.
“Holy Thursday” and “Infant Joy”
Recorded live at Pacific High Studio (60 Bradey St., San Francisco) on Aug. 21, 1971.
Two tapes: 1) approx. 20 minutes; 2) approx. 20 minutes.
Work sessions for Fantasy recording of Blake songs put to music by Allen Ginsberg with the help of fellow artists who recorded with him. I don’t think Fantasy ever released these.
Voice: Allen Ginsberg
Madolin: Alan Senauke
Guitar: John Sholle
Bass: Charlie Russell
Viola: Peter Hornbeck
“Notre Dame de Video”
Recorded live at Herman’s Paris flat (16 rue Cels, Paris 14e) in March, 1972. Approx. 20 minutes.
I made this video piece for the group show “Trois Soirs Parmi” at 19 Quai Bourbon, Paris 4e, on March 17, 1972. The show included live performances by Jochen Gerz, Françoise Janicot, and others.
Heidsieck performing his sound/action poetry.
Recorded live at Heidsieck’s Paris flat (19 Quai Bourbon, Paris 4e) in March, 1972. Approx. 20 minutes.
Knowles performing “The Identical Lunch”
Recorded live at Goddard College (Vermont) in March, 1973. Approx. 20 minutes.
GROUPE DZIGA VERTOV
Groupe Dziga Vertov Notebooks
Recorded live at Herman’s Paris flat (16 rue Cels, Paris 14e) on Nov. 30, 1971. Approx. 20 minutes.
A documentation of notebooks that were written in collaboration with Jean-Luc Goddard, preparatory to making several films in 1968. Rafael Sorin, a member of GDV and a literary critic/journalist, provided the notebooks for documentation. He narrates the video. Background music is by James Moody and Co.
Recorded live at the Wallraf Richartz Museum in Cologne on Sept. 19, 1971. Approx. 20 minutes.
From the collection of Ludwig Sammlung, works by various artists such as Lichtenstein, Warhol, Vostell, Rauschenberg, Wesselman, Indiana, Spoerri, Tinguely, others. Narrated by Herman.
Spoerri performing “Eat Art” (with Richard Lindner).
Recorded on Oct. 3, 1971, from a program entitled “Changes” on German Southwest Radio (3rd Programme). Approx. 15 minutes.
Postscript: All of these tapes are now on file here at the Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, Northwestern University Library, in Evanston, Illinois.