Here’s one you won’t find on YouTube. RealityStudio just posted it. William S. Burroughs, filmmaker Antony Balch and I made it 35 years ago in Burroughs’s London flat. It was an experiment, primitive yet precise, in a particular shape-shifting technique.
Coincidentally, RealityStudio has also posted an overview of an international symposium about William S. Burroughs, recently held in Mexico City. Jorge Cuevas Cid reports that one of the scholars, Katharine Streip, offered “a really helpful paper” (entitled “Cut-Ups and Sampling”) about Burroughs’s “cut-up experiments with tape recorders” and his use of “radical fragmentation which, like many other avant-garde experiments, is often labelled as ‘unreadable'” on the page.
“Among other things,” Cid writes, “she remarked [on] Burroughs’s awareness that reproduction technologies could make sense of what in a piece of paper was seemingly senseless. She also stressed the function of cut-ups to destabilize identity, as contemporary media have shown us.”
Exactly. Back in 1971, I was using an Akai video camera and portable recorder with 1/4″ black-and-white tape (a medium now so obsolete it’s not even remembered, let alone contemporary). I don’t know how the video will look to others, especially given the magnetic degradation of the tape after so many years in storage.
But as I’ve written in an explanatory note for RealityStudio, it still “gives the fantastic impression of a ventriloquist dummy coming to life or an ancient Egyptian mummy being revived to cheer the river gods. I think Bill got a kick out of that and the demonstration of how easy it was, even with primitive means, to create a televised witch’s brew” for propaganda and disinformation.