Signs: I Love This Game

May 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Seen last weekend at Motorino

More on Burroughs’ Color Walks from Michael Taussig

May 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

Michael Taussig on Burroughs’ color walks:

“That was in 1964. Brion Gysin was his painter pal in those days and when you look over Gysin’s work, playing with color in relation to written words, let alone Burroughs’s own color work, as in the 1960s scrapbooks and the 1980s paintings, it suddenly hits you that there is a tight connection between the mad desire to cut out, on the one hand, and this fascination with color, on the other.

As when, in his homage to Gysin, Burroughs invokes the idea of going on “color walks”—which are a good deal more than color-coded walkways through Tangier or New York or Paris: red on Wednesdays, blue on Fridays, or whatever. A delightful idea, to be sure. But that is only the beginning because the idea here is that the very notion of a code is to be cut out, meaning that color is invoked so as to loosen the restraint of coding and that there is something about color that facilitates this, as if colors love to betray themselves like yellow means gold, awesome and holy, but also treason and cowardice, and it has a long history in the Christian West of marking adulterous women, Jews, Muslims, prostitutes, heretics, witches, and executioners.

Could we not say, therefore, that with the color walk we are alerted to the singular and beautiful fact that color itself walks?

This would make color even more of a flâneur than Burroughs,who liked to call himself el hombre invisible in his walks through the market in Tangier in the late 1950s. What was invisible in Tangier became color in Paris, thanks to Gysin’s paintings painted in Tangier. Maybe people have to lose themselves first and become invisible as long-term residents in a third world country before being readied for the color walk? But then Burroughs was continuously marginal in utterly realistic as well as in utterly romantic ways. He was queer. He was a heroin addict. He loathed America. And he had weird ideas about most everything, especially writing. Being marginal can mean you switch on and you switch off because you are either too conspicuous or invisible. Too invisible, that’s the point, at which point you emerge as color, walking color at that.

And, remember, the original insight for the color walk lay in Gysin’s playing with letters, letters that form words. Here color and the decomposition of written language signs go hand in hand. What also happens when Smoker comes in from the cold is that the old writer in the boxcar by the junkyard is once again able to write. As colors pour from tar, he unblocks. He pours. The cat purrs. And guess what? All his stories are animal stories. (“Of course,” adds Burroughs.) The old writer finds them in an illustrated book. There is the Flying Fox with his long black fingers and sad black face, just like Smoker. There is a Fishing Bat peering from under its shell. There is the Black Lemur with round red eyes and its little red tongue, the beautiful Ring-Tailed Lemur hopping through the forest as if on a pogo stick. “So many creatures, and he loves them all” (WL, p. 248).

The old writer caresses these pictures.

After all, “I have been a cut up for years,” the writer told us. “I think of

words as being alive like animals. They don’t like to be kept in pages. Cut the pages and let the words out.” Now the words and the animals become united in the stories the old writer found welling up inside himself as colors pour from tar.”

Michael Taussig, What Color is the Sacred

See also Taussig’s “Getting High with Burroughs and Benjamin” in Cabinet Magazine.

Image: Bryon Gysin Dream Machine iPhone app created by the New Museum as part of their Brion Gysin Dream Machine show this past spring.

More here: Color: William Burroughs Walking on Color

Color: William Burroughs Walking on Color

May 19, 2011 § 5 Comments

William Burroughs’ Color Walks

“Another exercise that is very effective is walking on colors. Pick out all the reds on a street, focusing only on red objects–brick, lights, sweaters, signs. Shift to green, blue, orange, yellow. Notice how the colors begin to stand out more sharply of their own accord. I was walking on yellow when I saw a yellow amphibious jeep near the corner of 94th Street and Central Park West. It was called the Thing. This reminded me of the Thing I knew in Mexico. He was nearly seven feet tall and had played the Thing in a horror movie of the same name, and everybody called him the Thing, though his name was James Arness.  I hadn’t thought about the Thing in twenty years, and would not have thought about him except walking on yellow at that particular moment.”

(From “Ten Years and a Billion Dollars” William S. Burroughs in The Adding Machine: Selected Essays, Arcade Publishing, New York, 1985)

“For example, I was taking a color walk around Paris the other day…doing something I picked up from your pictures in which the colors shoot out all through the canvas like they do in the street. I was walking town the boulevard when I suddenly felt this cool wind on a warm day and when I looked out all through the canvas like they do in the street. I was walking down the boulevard when I looked out I was seeing all the blues in the street in front of me, blue on a foulard…blue on a young workman’s ass…his blue jeans…a girl’s blue sweater…blue neon…the sky…all the blues. When I looked again I saw nothing but all the reds of traffic lights…car lights…a café sign…a man’s nose. Your paintings make me see the streets of Paris in a different way. And then there are all the deserts and the Mayan masks and the fantastic aerial architecture of your bridges and catwalks and Ferris wheels.”

(Burroughs, from an interview with Brion Gysin in 1960)

Update: More on Burroughs’ Color Walks from Michael Taussig

Lists: Green Eggs and Ham

May 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

The entire 50 word lexicon of Green Eggs and Ham:

a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you

Rob Giampietro (in The Mavenist’s Permutations and Loops):

“In the right hands, the most ordinary things can take on extraordinary meanings. “The Cat in the Hat” came about when Dr Seuss was asked by William Ellsworth Spaulding, Houghton Mifflin’s education director, to compose a text for six-year-olds using a lexicon of only the 348 words they should developmentally know. “The Cat in the Hat” uses 223 words that are on the list and 13 that are not. It had sold more than 10.5 million copies by 2007. Random House publisher Bennett Cerf then bet Seuss $50 he couldn’t do a book in just 50 words. The result was “Green Eggs and Ham,” one of the weirdest, most delightful books around.”

Color: Helen Miranda Wilson

May 14, 2011 § Leave a comment

The stripe paintings

of Helen Miranda Wilson

[“Time Away” 2008]

John Yau on Wilson in The Brooklyn Rail, 2008

“The paintings are color sensations in which a complex range of feelings and possible readings are evoked. It used to be, or so some people claim, that when a painter did something new and different, others would notice it. Except in the case of very few artists, this hasn’t been the case in years. Wilson doesn’t care, and that is to her credit.”

Hayden Herrera Interviews Helen Miranda Wilson in Provincetown Arts: [PDF]

Statement Object: Dream

May 12, 2011 § Leave a comment

Scott Burton, 1969


I. Conception

A. Agent instructs self to produce unconscious fantasy about self at specific (future) time and place.*

B. Agent sleeps.

II. Execution

A. At specified time and place agend reproduces conditions conceived in I.

B. Agent repeats I if:

1. Original conditions are inexecutable.

2. No conditions have been conceived.

*As an example, the agent, Scott Burton; the time, October 25, 1969, at noon; the place, East 65th Street, New York City, in front of #41.

[noted down during the 1969 show at PS1 this past summer]


John Perrault tells this story:

“Sleep as an art subject is rare, but Dean MacGregor may win the prize. As part of an ongoing series of sleepovers, on October 27, 2005 — as recently reported on Artnet — MacGregor slept all night in the Guggenheim Museum. Photo evidence of the Guggenheim nap and snoozes at other sites can be seen on his

Yes, Scott Burton did it first. Well, sort of. At a dinner party last month, Art in America‘s Betsy Baker asked me, vis a vis MacGregor, when Scott (a mutual friend) had done his sleeping piece.

As part of the opening night reception of Street Works at the Architectural League of New York in 1969, Burton, clad in pajamas, slept on a coton a staircase landing. Where’s the proof? Back then we did not think of photographing every single art work we made, every single thought. How do you photograph a thought?

That was to come later.

Since we had had a falling out over something or another — probably his capitulation to what I thought of asobject-mongering — I never got a chance to ask Burton if he had indeed dreamed that evening, surrounded by strangers trudging up and down the elegant stairs of that Upper East Side mansion.”

[more here]

[description of the Scott Burton Papers at MoMA]

Action: The Long Glance

May 11, 2011 § 1 Comment


THE LONG GLANCE by Jonathan VanDyke

VanDyke says: “I stand and stare at the Jackson Pollock painting Convergence: Number 10, 1952 for forty hours. My performance takes the duration of one workweek, staged in the public galleries of the Albright-Knox for five, eight-hour days. With just incremental movement and slight changes in posture, I stand as the life of the museum unfolds around me. The performance begins May 28, 2011.”

The Albright-Knox website will feature a live feed of the performance.

May/June 2011 Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

Read an interview with VanDyke about the project.

Where Am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for May, 2011 at Word Object.