Gen's upcoming events and Misc.upcoming projects...

GENS MISC. UPCOMING PROJECTS: Heartworm Press are publishing “Collected Lyrics and Poems of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge – Volume One 1961 to 1971. Later they will publish Gen's first novel, written in 1969, “Mrs. Askwith”. Other books will follow.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From Bryin Dall of Thee Majesty "The Life & Death of Jordan" Screening Aug 20th!

From Bryin Dall of Thee Majesty
·Ok, the time has finally arrived. My film, The Life & Death of Jordan, starring Jordan Costa, will be making it's worldwide debut. It was filmed entirely on Super 8 film. It is a 19 minute short and I will be scoring it live on August 20th at Uncle Mike's, 57 Murray Street in Tribeca, Manhattan. The movie will be shown at Midnight and is part of Jason Ledyard's Incantation night (don't be frightened by the goths)! I hope to see you there!

Thee Majesty Live youtube videos from Outfest 2011 performance

"Marble Walls"?

"Jack Kerouac Said..."

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye LA Weekly article

Marie Losier's P-Orridge Film The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye:
Best Documentary Ever About Husband and Wife Surgery to Become Copies of Each Other
By Karina Longworth
Fri., Jul. 8 2011 at 4:15 PM

"Sex is a virus," says Richard Foreman in Marie Losier's short film about his experimental theater work, The Ontological Cowboy, screening Sunday at LA Filmforum. "Let's not kid ourselves: we're driven so we will fuck, so we will produce babies."

Sexuality certainly could be said to course through the veins of Losier's films, but more often than not it's thrillingly murky and atmospheric rather than goal-oriented. The 39 year-old French-born, New York-based filmmaker and curator seems less interested in sex as a tool of reproduction than as a production in and of itself.

In that sense, Losier perhaps finds her ideal subject in Psychic TV frontman/performance artist/professional boundary demolisher Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, who appears in Losier's fantastic musical fantasy shorts Papal Broken-Dance and Slap the Gondola, both screening on Filmforum's Sunday lineup.

P-Orridge's transformative late career and second marriage -- including his surgically-aided evolution from straight male father of two into a "pandrogynous being" who adopted the physical characteristics of wife Lady Jaye -- is the subject of Losier's first feature-length documentary, The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, which screens at Outfest this weekend before opening Allison Anders' Don't Stop the Rock festival at Cinefamily next week.

A pioneer of industrial music in deep creative debt to William S. Burroughs' philosophy of the "cut-up," P-Orridge's deep bond with Jaye -- a performance artist in her own right, who he married in 1993 and lived and collaborated with until her untimely death in 2007 -- became the subject of his most elaborate, and literal, homage to the art of radical collage.

In addition to encapsulating the second half of P-Orridge's 40-year-plus musical career, Ballad documents the surgical procedures that husband and wife underwent in attempt to become carbon copies of one another, up to and including identical breast implants. "You fall in love with someone, and there's this moment where you just want to consume each other, and not be individuals anymore," P-Orridge says in Losier's film. "We had that so strongly that we felt we wanted to pursue that, and not just talk about it, but live it."

P-Orridge's life thus becomes an artistic exploration of innate beauty versus artificial, and the performative processes that connect the two. Losier splices intimate verite footage of Genesis' life with and without Jaye (they're first seen lazily roaming NYC together, husband looking like the bloated older sister of his wife) with dreamy, highly choreographed sequences set to Genesis' narration of his own life story. Just as the couple evolve into a living cut-up, the film follows suit.

This feat of form following content is not unusual for Losier: the one true signature connecting her shorts may be her ability absorb the stylistic tropes of the work of her collaborators/subjects, and project back imagery that's a distinct marriage of their style and her own. Her short Manuelle Labor, a collaboration with Guy Maddin, glosses the Canadian auteur's patented silent film pastiche with a winking spirit of childlike play, which also infects her two music video-style shorts with Porridge.

Even when collaborating with other artists, Losier's borrowing of lo-fi, proudly cheesy special effects, her fascination with less-than beautiful women and men burlesquing masculinity, and use of familiar music cues (classical, pop, movie scores) loaded with nostalgic connotation calls to mind the work of George and Mike Kuchar, the experimental filmmaking brothers with whom Losier works and plays direct tribute to in three films on Sunday's slate, including Eat My Makeup (starring George Kuchar), Snowbeard (a portrait of Mike Kuchar on his last day living in New York), and Electrocute Your Stars.

In the latter, my pick for the highlight of the show, Losier constructs psychedelic visual riffs on George Kuchar's classic Weather Diaries series and his seminal Hold Me While I'm Naked, while via voiceover George deconstructs his own process in his inimitable patois. It's just one of Losier's many portraits of artists in a program which represents a kind of pocket history of certain giddily transgressive strains of avant-garde.

The Ballad of Lady Jaye screens at Outfest on Saturday, July 9, and at Cinefamily on Thursday, July 14. Genesis P-Orridge performs with his band Thee Majesty after the Outfest screening, Saturday night at REDCAT.

Los Angeles Filmforum presents Flying Fish and Dream Portraits: Short Films by Marie Losier on Sunday, July 10, at the Velaslavasay Panorama. More info at

Follow @KarinaLongworth and @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.

Thee majesty In-studio recording notes-East LA session.

Friday Post from Thee Majesty member Edward ODowd
 "in East LA recording with Bryin Dall, Genesis Breyer P-orridge, David J Haskins and Joe Haskins."

Posted yesterday by Thee Majesty member Bryin Dall..
"Amazing 2 days of recording with David J, Joe Haskins, Genesis, Edley and myself. Great studio and engineer (Ego)."

Yes, David J from Bauhaus/Love & Rockets along with his son, Joe (another great musician). We recorded a track together for the new Thee Majesty album

and finally a few notes I got straight from Genesis...
Thee Majesty took a couple of daze while in LA with Ego Plum as engineer to record an entirely new TMaj song....Edley on drums and percussion, Joe Haskins on processed Moroccan pipes, David J.On dubbed out bassLines and, Bryin Dall played machete guitar! Then we listened a few times to ruff demo mix and added a poetic vocal in a Troubador inspired way. So YES this will be the FIRST Thee Majesty studio album since "Time's Up!!" In is sounding incredible so Far.

Ptv3...Are also recording their follow up their Maggot Brain/Alien Brain vinyl 12inch. With "Mother Sky/Alien Sky" 12 Inch. Needs one mixing.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011



On Saturday, July 9th Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Bryin Dall and Edley ODowd will be performing as THEE MAJESTY as part of OUTFEST 2011 in conjunction with the LA film premiere of The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye. The performance will take place at the REDCAT: ROY AND EDNA DISNEY/CALARTS THEATRE AT WALT DISNEY CONCERT HALL - 631 W. 2nd St., Downtown Los Angeles, 90012. Major Cross Streets: Hope (Entrance on 2nd Street)

for further info

Sunday, July 3, 2011

William Burroughs in Film


William Burroughs in Film
An exploration of the application of Burroughs' concepts from his collaborative experiments to the later more mainstream works of Naked Lunch and Beat
by Lord Summerisle



William S. Burroughs is an incredibly important beat generation figure whose influence can be seen from literature to music to film. So much has been written about him (be it his writing, his concepts or his colourful bohemian lifestyle) that when taking upon this task one is confronted with an endless amount of research material, one book giving reference to another, then another etc. Therefore it is necessary to begin by identifying what areas of Burroughs varied materials and concepts will be focal to this work.

In order to explore Burroughs influence in film one must identify the key concepts within his literature which translate to themes and motifs within related film work. This includes investigating the cut-up technique and its development as well as his theories on the ‘virus power' or the ‘word virus' and the ‘control' issues within his work, as well as his ideas on gender, sex and addiction.

This will lead to the important collaborative work done in the 1960's with Brion Gysin, Antony Balch and Ian Somerville, putting into institutional context Towers Open Fire (1963) and The Cut-Ups (1967) as well as textually analysing the meanings within these films and referring this to Burroughs signature concepts.

From here the invistigation will progress chronologically, tracing Burroughs' views and influences on (as well as his pre-empting of) the punk movement, his tape recorder experiments and the importance of his sonic theories, known as ‘The Invisible Generation' concepts, which went on to spawn the birth of industrial music and bands such as Throbbing Gristle (1976-1981) whose focal member, Genesis P-Orridge, had an instrumental role in the latter days of Burroughs life. This links to the German independent film Decoder (1984), which features both Burroughs and P-Orridge and is heavily thematically influenced by Burroughs, in particular Electronic Revolution .

Into the 1990's and the film Naked Lunch (1991), I will look at David Cronenberg's own style and how he has been influenced by Burroughs as well as exploring how the contrasting of their similar styles and ideas combined to produce the final film. I will also look at how Cronenberg's semi-biographical handling of the text differs from Gysin's original screenplay and Burroughs' views on both. Progressing into the year 2000 I will show how Burroughs influence continues to the present day with the little known Burroughs bio-pic Beat (2000) and its more mainstream treatment as well as briefly analysing the Darren Aronofsky movie Requiem For a Dream (2000), based on the novel by Hubert Selby, which deals with Burroughs-esque themes in a contemporary setting.

All of this will be backed up and contextualised by pertinent and informed theorists, such as writer of Naked Lens, Beat Cinema Jack Sargeant and Burroughs analyst Eric Mottram.

William Burroughs in Film – Part 1: Literary Concepts
by Lord Summerisle


The Cut-Up Technique and Trilogy

Burroughs accumulated a great amount of challenging theories during his lifetime. Many of them manifest themselves in theme form inside his writing, which is where one finds the more autobiographical elements to his work, issues of sexuality, addiction and paranoia; Burroughs own life entering the fiction to create his 'Interzone'*. Jack Sargeant writes, speaking of Burroughs post 50's work in Naked Lens; Beat Cinema (2001), "The dualism of 'fiction' and 'non-fiction' is, of course, redundant when dealing with these texts, a more appropriate terminology would be 'slipstream'."

Others are formal techniques like the cut-up, which have direct effect on the content and are designed to question the interplay between writer and reader, as well as language itself.

The most effective way of examining all of these elements is to look at his 1960's writing, a period where Burroughs was developing his anarchistic political literary approach and when his various collaborations began to bare fruit. The most radical example of this is the invention of the cut-up technique. A method synonymous with Burroughs, although it was his artist friend and neighbour, Brion Gysin, who devised it in September, 1959, in room #15 at the Beat Hotel, 9 Rue Git La Coeur, Paris. He was preparing a mount for a drawing of his with a stanley knife and cut through several layers of newspaper. "Through this apparently random event the written text was opened to the potentialities of montage and juxtaposition." (p.169, Sargeant, 2001) Gysin was excited by this and claimed that it was what writing needed to bring it up to date with art, comparing it to Cubist painting.

Later he wrote of this in his and Burroughs collaborative book The Third Mind (1979), "Writing is fifty years behind painting. I propose to apply the painters' techniques to writing; things as simple and immediate as collage or montage."

He imparted its importance to Burroughs and others, as they were not the only ones to benefit from Gysin's initial serendipity and subsequent epiphany. Many residents and cohorts of the Beat Hotel took to the idea, Burroughs was just the one who applied it best.

Burroughs himself utilised the cut-up for his own purposes throughout his 60's literature and film collaborations, to challenge the media of both writing and cinema.

In The Soft Machine the cut-up is used experimentally and all three editions of the book have a variable amount of cut-up material in them, although it is difficult to specify or identify where these areas lie as his writing by its very nature is fragmentary and abstract** so using the cut-up technique is just another tool to disorientate the reader and create conflict through the opposition of established methods.

"Burroughs creates conflict through opposition to authority, and this includes the authority of established methods of plot, time and space in novels and the readers' response to them." (p.12, Mottram, 1964)

The concept of disorientation through opposition is a central one essay and is something present within all Burroughs own and influenced works as it is key as the disruption of 'control'.

Control is a theme that was spawned by the drug induced paranoia of his early books, Junkie and Naked Lunch, then developed as he became more politically aware, into a broader concept of power against those who oppose it, in the cut-up trilogy The Soft Machine, The Ticket That Exploded and Nova Express. This, of course, runs along side the 'virus power' notion (which will be elaborated on in the following section) and his distrust of and opposition to conventional language, reinforced by the chaos of cut-up, and in the case of the latter two books, folded-in, material. This technique relates to space and time, and to Burroughs this accentuated the science fiction context of the cut-up trilogy to actively travelling through space-time in the writing process.

"A Russian scientist has said that we will travel, not only in space, but in time as well, that is to travel in space is to travel in time, and if writers are to travel in space-time and explore the areas opened in the space age, I think they must develop techniques as new and definite as the technique of physical space travel." (William S Burroughs interviewed by Eric Mottram in 1964, [p.14, Hibbard, 1999])

This is shown in this passage from The Soft Machine (p.50):

"Now when I fold today's paper in with yesterday's paper and arrange the picture's to form a time section montage I am literally moving back to the time when I read yesterday's paper, that is travelling in time back to yesterday – I did this eight hours a day for three months – I went back as far as the papers went – I dug out old magazines and forgotten novels and letters – I made fold-ins and composites and I did the same with photos"

The passage not only shows how important he viewed the cut-up, but also provides an example of the way much of his literature works. Burroughs brings form into the content, characteristically expressing his ideas directly through the fictional context of a character within the text. It will become clear how recurrent Sargeant's 'slipstream' notion is as the body of this work progresses, and how it is equally relevant to film.

Not only do some of Burroughs' concepts appear overtly in his work but also his personal life is threaded throughout his fictional writing. There are overt references similar to the discussed passage in which his personal life is cut into the text. For example, in The Soft Machine Burroughs refers to his homosexual lover Kiki several times, once briefly describing his death, which had occurred a few years previously. The character Kiki also appears in the film version of Naked Lunch, which is very much a continuation of the 'slipstream' fiction/non-fiction amalgamation, this will be discussed fully when deconstructing the film and its connections to Burroughs literary concepts.

There are also non overt themes expressed through motif or narrative devise to convey personal positioning with regards to many issues: Sexuality (Burroughs was a known homosexual, coming out soon after Joan's death), much of his writing contains explicit homosexual imagery and women feature in perfunctory roles, if at all. Drugs and addiction, trademark Beat concerns, are also central to Burroughs work (as they were to his life) Corruption, part of the control paranoia he was concerned with at this period that is also connected to 'the word virus'.

Rubbing Out the Word

The reason Burroughs wanted to deconstruct standard conventions of language was to discover "what words actually are, and exactly what is the relationship to the human nervous system." (p.12, Mottram, 1964) His writing is waging a war against conventions of language through the cut-up to make the reader step back and re-assess their role as well as the psychological construction of conventional language. He comments about this in The Algebra of Need (p.155, Mottram, 1977), "Now, rubbing out the word could make objective alterations in this actual physico-psychological structure. What these alterations would be we have no way of knowing…" One can see here where his anarchistic attitude to language stems from. He continues to discuss how the practise of language connects to a war society that is in harmony with the 'virus power'. "Verbalisation has got us precisely where we are: war is a word. The whole war universe is a verbal universe, which means they've got us in the impasse. And in order to break out of that impasse it would seem desirable to explore alternative methods of communication." His books are furnished with weaponry of various kinds symbolic of his war on language and consciousness as well as controlling powers.

William Burroughs in Film – Part 2: The 60s Film Experiments
By Lord Summerisle


Towers Open Fire

The first film works Burroughs was involved in are also the ones he had the most involvement in. These were the collaborative avant-garde films of the 1960's, the same period as the development of many of the literary techniques and concepts just mentioned. It is easy to see this when analysing the works.

The films in question are Towers Open Fire and The Cut-Ups, both directed by British film maker and independent distributor Antony Balch, who Burroughs and Gysin became friends with at the Beat Hotel. Balch was just the person the two of them were looking for to translate their concepts into the medium of film. Burroughs and Gysin were highly partial to experimentation in all forms of the arts, and it was not long until the three of them as well as Ian Somerville teamed up and began to explore the cinematic potential of their ideas.

Towers Open Fire was the first film to be made, shot between 1961 and 1962, and was mainly a collaboration between Burroughs and Balch, although Somerville and Gysin are credited and their influences do appear in the film in some form. It is a black and white, hand held (shot by Balch himself), encoded structural piece that is "a cinematic interpretation of many of Burroughs' major themes." (p.170, Sargeant, 2001) As Sargeant goes on to say, it is not a cut-up itself, although it does contain the first evidence of the technique being applied directly to film (as The Cut-Ups expands on) in a short cut-up sequence shot on a quayside in Paris.

A "collage of the main themes and situations or 'routines' that appear in Burroughs cut-up novels of the period" (Bridgett, date unknown), Towers portrays "the destruction of the stock market and disintegration of the Board", as described by Sargeant. This is shown by Burroughs himself in camouflage and a gas mask, brandishing an 'orgasm gun' and shooting photographs of families and stereotypical images of social happiness. Effectively destroying the pictorial form of language and the conventional representation of happiness. When Burroughs commands "Towers open fire!", sound waves are emitted by antennae to attack the Boards' senses.

When these weapons are deployed 'The Board', a group of suit wearing men sitting around a table, with pictograms and Egyptian symbols pinned to the wall in the background, dissolve and disappear. This is Burroughs' notion of 'control' being broken down, and with it these scenes are intercut with "various other images of autonomous liberation." (p.170, Sargeant, 2001) These are such images as Balch masturbating and Burroughs waving his hands magically over film canisters.

We are then left with the resolution of photographs and the Boards papers blowing away, connoting the end of their rule and with it their mode of communication. Here we see an exact example of Burroughs war against 'control' as well as his distain for conventional language. The icons of weaponry are there with the 'orgasm gun', a sexual weapon (connoting the sexual aggression present in Burroughs writing), and the towers themselves as a powerful sonic weapon in Burroughs arsenal, and another incarnation of his combating of 'control'/the Board by sensory assault. It is backed up by shots of Burroughs holding a tape recorder. This idea of sonic warfare returns in his writings later in the decade and goes on to influence music and film alike, as will be discussed later.

Yet it is not only the connoted themes and ideas of Burroughs' literature that are present in Towers, it contains within the voiceover (Burroughs himself, once again) a brief passage from the 1966 edition of The Soft Machine, to add further strength to Burroughs' stamp on the movie as well as a direct link to his literature.

When deconstructed in this way it is clear to see Burroughs' concepts within this work. There are other key elements in this film that also feature in the other of this period, generally because much of what was shot was used interchangeably in the films. This is characteristic of Burroughs methods as he often overlapped work in novels and included material written long ago in newer writings (the title 'Towers Open Fire' was used as a chapter heading in Nova Express written after the film was made). Plus all these films were shot in many different locations, giving the Beat sense of travel and constant movement that was true their nature whilst filming. Also the appearance of Burroughs himself in all the films refers to the 'slipstream' idea elaborated on from Sargeants' book. Gysins invention of the 'Dreamachine' appears in both Towers and The Cut-Ups, which is another tool to achieve the mental liberation that their practises are meant to encourage.

The Cut-Ups

The second film, The Cut-Ups, although not such an involved and encoded piece as Towers, it is still very relevant in its application of Burroughs' work in film. This was a more extreme experiment with less narrative to extract and was a wider collaboration than Towers as it involved Gysin and Somerville more than its predecessor. Much of the footage used in The Cut-Ups was originally shot between 1961 and 1965, amongst the footage used in Towers, for a silent documentary to be entitled 'Guerrilla Conditions'. This film was never fully realised so they used what they had shot for it for The Cut-Ups, once again merging two texts, one never accomplished and used as a tool to create something new.

Although this collective had never really expressed an interest in the avant-garde movements present at the time they wanted to achieve something similar to the structural films of the New York, and various other, co-op groups, and with the use of the newly developed cut-up technique they had the perfect tool to create an original piece. The film is a montage of various routines at various speeds; Burroughs walking around, someone dancing in the street, Gysin painting, the Dreamachine, Burroughs dressed as a doctor examining a boy etc, with each shot an equal length (with the exception of the last). These scenes do not cut together to form a narrative, more an abstract montage, putting it into the structural film bracket. It was an exact science, as Balch wanted each scene to be just long enough for the audience to take in:

"I asked myself what was the shortest length that anyone could really take a scene in, shorter than a foot not everyone could see everything, longer than a foot and they'd have time to examine it." (p.12, Cinema Rising #1, 1972)

He also experimented with speeds of film, showing it at 16 frames a second on occasions, to further disorientate the viewer.

Each scene was originally conventionally edited to create a basic narrative scenario, it was then that the cut-up method was employed. After cutting the film into four approximately equal lengths and then into foot long strips, Balch had these pieces randomly stuck together by an employee to construct what we see as The Cut-Ups now*. By literally cutting up the footage and randomly sticking it back together, taking away the purposeful construction of a considered edit, it is a direct filmic interpretation of the literary cut-up.

Although this was not the only avant-garde method applied and the use of sound gives the film a dimension literature could not achieve. The image is supported by a layered, voiceover engineered by Somerville, with Burroughs and Gysin repeating the permutated phrases, "Yes/Hello/Look at that picture/Does it seem to be persisting?/Good/Thank You". These are instructions from a Scientology auditing test. The soundtrack was made totally independently of the image but runs for exactly the same amount of time. It serves to add another layer of disruption, as the audience is not used to hearing language utilised in such an abstract way, divorced from the picture. Although, it does link formically with the thematic concepts of the piece. A strange union present in Burroughs writing.

So, where Towers and The Cut-Ups differ is the former connotes Burroughs concepts through representation (save the brief cut-up section), whereas The Cut-Ups is a formic exercise in bringing the cut-up technique in full into film "to make explicit a psycho sensory process" as Burroughs describes in The Third Mind. Unfortunately at the time this was not really acknowledged as the films were not shown to wide audiences (The Cut-Ups was cut down from 23 minutes to 12 then subsequently withdrawn form where it was first shown because members of the audience were leaving things behind in the cinema in their confusion after seeing the film!). Also they were not embraced by the avant-garde contingent that should have supported them. When Burroughs returned to New York the co-op of Jonas Mekas and Adams-Sitney shunned them because their collective's "reputation was too heavy"** since, "William had shot his wife and he had published the most shocking book of all time."*** So it is only in recent years (thanks to P-Orridge, as is written later) that these films have obtained their due recognition as relevant 1960's avant-garde works.

The foundations were laid for the importance of Burroughs in the field of sound in the 60's experiments, but it was not until the following decades that this influence was picked up by his contemporaries. The reason for this was the advent of punk, which was actually pre-empted by the already anarchistic Burroughs in the 1968 interview with Jeff Shero:

"Just think about the Queen for a moment. That is what is holding the whole of England back…the subservience on the part of a great majority of the English people to this bitch…I say there's no hope for them until we have five thousand people out in Trafalgar Square screaming 'bugger the Queen.'"

This forward thinking meant that he was already anti monarchy and anti establishment when the punk movement came around and understood the rebellious ethics of their music. However, Burroughs concerned himself with a deeper and more intellectual sonic rebellion:

"Just think about the Queen for a moment. That is what is holding the whole of England back…the subservience on the part of a great majority of the English people to this bitch…I say there's no hope for them until we have five thousand people out in Trafalgar Square screaming 'bugger the Queen.'"

"One aspect of Burroughs armoury against 'Control', alongside weapons ranging from homemade guns to Deadly Orgone Radiation, is the tape recorder, a machine which Burroughs has suggested in various essays and interviews, could be utilized as a magical tool, a viral device, and a sound weapon." (Sargeant, 2001)

He believed a far greater insurgence could be created through sound by recording the sounds of control to use against it:

"Recorded police whistles will draw cops. Recorded gunshots, and their guns are out." (Electronic Revolution, Burroughs, 1966).

This concept was issued as a call to arms by Burroughs in such essays as the aforementioned Electronic Revolution and The Invisible Generation as well as the book The Revised Boy Scout Manual and eventually fell into the hands of the punk generation. Experimental musical groups highly influenced by Burroughs ideas emerged in the late 1970's. At the forefront of these was Throbbing Gristle whose founding member, Genesis P-Orridge, became friends with Burroughs when he was spending some time living in England in the late 1970's and was a great promoter of his little known works, from the collaborative films (coined 'Thee Films' by P-Orridge) to the tape recorder cut-ups undertaken by Burroughs at this period.

It was these ideas that coerced the creation of Decoder, a German low-budget feature based on the concept of an attempt at revolution created by sound. It is not directly associated with the punk film (or para-punk) genre, yet it can be allied to this in its similar themes:

"Its narrative emphasis on the omnipotent and oppressive nature of 'Control', and the opportunities presented by 'punk' sub-culture for re-negotiating and transgressing the hierarchy of the social order." (p.201, Sargeant, 2001)

Decoder is a more conventional film work than Burroughs own as the theories explored are encased within a conventional narrative format. It embraced the Beat film notion of casting people of relevance into their work and both P-Orridge and Burroughs himself feature in the film, joined by Mufti as the main protagonist, a member of the pioneering German experimental music group influenced by Burroughs, Einsturzende Neubauten. Once again one can observe the direct juxtaposition of fiction and reality as the theorist who inspired the themes of the piece is encased within it in physical manifestation as well as conceptually. Burroughs not only acts in the film but provides voiceover in the form of his own tape recorder cut-ups, imprinting his direct influence into the sound as well as the image. He is clearly depicted as the guiding force of the protagonists rebellion.

The script, written by Klaus Maeck, contextualises Burroughs theories within the time period (1980's). There is a recurring motif of the television screen in the film, a devise to highlight the concern of "cultural colonization and control" (p.200, Sargeant, 2001). But it is the sonic concepts underpinning the narrative that are most important. The main character FM Einheit (Mufti) experiments with sound to provide an alternative to the hollow muzak piped into burger bars reflective of the increasingly consumerist society, "gorging themselves on one hamburger after another"*. By replacing the hypnotically soothing muzak in 'H. Burger', (Decoder's representation of 'control', connoting ideas of the Board in Towers Open Fire), with his own experiments, FM creates large-scale riots of tape recorder wielding punks. The exact revolution against the establishment Burroughs conceived of in Electronic Revolution.

Also there are connotations of Burroughs in the title itself, 'Decoder', meaning a devise to decode the complexities of Burroughs revolutionary thinking through film.

Decoder is a good example of Burroughs continuing and international influence in film, an amalgamation between punk aesthetics and a more intellectual thematic vision. As the peak of the punk movement had passed the rebellious minority who were looking for more than the limits of the movement could provide turned to the industrial music experiments and films influenced by writers such as Burroughs.

It was during this period that Genesis P-Orridge rescued the 1960's film collaborations from destruction when Antony Balch died, at a time when they were all but forgotten. Knowing that there was now an audience for these "incredibly significant and monumental" (P-Orridge, 1997) films, he was responsible for storing and distributing them. His valuable actions have preserved Burroughs film origins and made them available to influence the following generations. I would argue that these influences are still very relevant.

William Burroughs in Film – Part 4: Naked Lunch and Beat
By Lord Summerisle


David Cronenberg's Naked Lunch was not the only attempt made in translating Burroughs novel into a film. There was a screenplay written much earlier by Brion Gysin (and storyboarded by Balch) back in the 1960's. Along with Towers Open Fire and The Cut Ups, there was much more film retrieved by P-Orridge, and some of it included footage of what is presumed to be scenes from this original screenplay. Although there was interest in the project by the likes of Dennis Hopper, Mick Jagger, David Bowie and the screenwriter Terry Southern, funding never materialised and the idea slowly faded.

Gysin's script differs in some ways from Cronenberg's and is more an artist's vision of a film than a filmmaker's, yet it has inevitably many similarities as they are both grounded in the same novel. For example the central character is William Lee (Burroughs' alter ego, Lee being his mother's maiden name), and the Interzone still features but is changed to Neverzone. Yet it is the differences that provide greater insight, and one of the main differences to be observed in the two scripts is the concept of reality. In Gysin's version the narrative centres around the reality of the novel. Hence when Lee escapes to Neverzone he is doing just that and the reality is not questioned. Whereas in Cronenberg's semi-biographical vision there is reason for the audience to question the reality of Interzone as a fictional retreat, even though it is dealt with as a part of the integeral narrative construct. Sargeant writes:

"The narcotic fragmentation suggested in the metanarrative in and around the writing of Naked Lunch, becomes mirrored in the films disregard for the division between fantasy/reality, as William Lee (Peter Weller) slides unannounced, between hallucination and consensus."

It could be argued that the book has abstract parts of Burroughs' own experiences within it so a straightforward handling of it would translate biographical notions, and in part this is true. But what Cronenberg has done is to work literal biographical elements into the Naked Lunch narrative to reinforce those abstracted notions and to create a questioning of reality. So the killing of Burroughs' wife, Joan, is what sends Bill Lee into Interzone and not the shooting of New York cops, as featured in the book and the Gysin script. It is necessary to refer back to Burroughs history to demonstrate the importance of this incident in his life and thus the film. In A Report From The Bunker (Beckris, 1981) Burroughs states:

"I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan's death, and to the realisation of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the ugly spirit, and manoeuvred me into a lifelong struggle in which I have had no choice except to write my way out."

So the Cronenberg film is very much in harmony with this notion. As Cronenberg himself explained:

"It's Joans death that first drives him to create his own environment, his own Interzone." (p.211, Snowden, 1992)

Which is what the metaphor of the cops shooting in the original Naked Lunch is really about, Cronenberg is merely making it explicit in his interpretation.

Cronenberg uses the two writer friends Bill Lee has in the movie as another bridge between fiction and reality. They are icons representing the real figures of Burroughs' true friends Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac although they are not, in same way as Bill Lee, direct representations of the men in question.

The questioning of reality is one concept of many that Burroughs and Cronenberg had a shared interest in. One just has to observe the central themes of Videodrome (1982) and Existenz (1999) to recognise it as a significance within Cronenberg's work. Although this is not the only area that Burroughs has influenced Cronenberg in. He has frequently stated his main influences have not been filmmakers but writers, Burroughs and Vladimir Nabokov, because of "their status as 'alien' outsiders" (p.211, Sargeant, 2001). One can see the former of these literary influences clearly in the films mentioned above, but in particular Videodrome. Its motifs concerned with sexuality and his trademark body horror are converted from Burroughs own ideas, in the "horror of female genitalia" and expanded by "the aesthetics of revulsion" (p.217, Snowden, 1992) as Cronenberg puts it.

Another common theme the two share is that of the insect motif. The imagery of the insect is present in Cronenberg's 1986 film The Fly, in which the protagonist suffers a metamorphosis into a fly, and can be found in much of Burroughs literature, in particular The Soft Machine, where the centipede features, sometimes in a humanoid state. So it is not surprising to see this theme present in the Naked Lunch movie. Cronenberg lifts the abstract, literary iconography of the centipede from the pages of Burroughs books and gives it a symbolic meaning within the text of the film; a signifier of Interzone. The representational context of insects does not stop with the centipede. The typewriter Bill Lee uses to write himself into Interzone (again a direct reference to the reality of Burroughs writing himself out of 'possession' by Joan's death), is represented as a drug induced hallucination of a bug, connoting a life within the function of writing. It is a controlling force too, as the bug typewriter in Naked Lunch serves as an Interzone 'agent'. This has great referred meaning to Burroughs concepts as it encompasses 'control' as well as the drug user/pusher ideas of Junkie through to Naked Lunch in which, "Burroughs central analogy is the relationship between addict and agent or pusher" (p12, Mottram, 1964).

Although he has never been avant-garde in his film making to the point that Burroughs was in the 1960's, Cronenberg also shares a problematic categorization with Burroughs work, as his themes fall somewhere between science fiction and horror, two genres that Burroughs writing includes in various guises.

The only way in which Cronenberg strays from authenticity to Burroughs influence is where the notion of sexuality appears. Burroughs relationship with Kiki is implied in the film, connoting the confronting of his homosexuality, yet a parallel Joan-like woman is also created by Cronenberg within Interzone and can be read as a devise to bring into question his sexuality, thus making it commercially digestible. However I would argue that the introduction of a woman resembling Joan is multi-functional, as it serves as a constant iconic reminder of Joan to show she is always on his mind, backing up what has already been discussed regarding the omnipresence of Joans spirit in Burroughs. It also provides a sexual tension juxtaposed to Kiki, connoting the confusion still present in his mind during this period of sexual adjustment.

Cronenberg was responsible for putting Burroughs back into relevance in the film sphere but with the emergence of Beat ten years later it was clear that the man and his work were still important to the world of film. This is a largely unknown independent work, directed by Gary Walkow, that only enjoyed a limited theatrical release. It focuses solely on the biographical events centred around the formative years of Burroughs life, locating its narrative in the Carr/Kammerer court case and Joans shooting. Although the film was not a financial success and the historical accuracy of its narrative is questionable, Beat demonstrates a continuing influence in the mythology of Burroughs life as well as the Beatnik community in general.

This was followed by Darren Aronofsky's Requiem For A Dream, based on the novel by Hubert Selby. Although clearly not heavily influenced by Burroughs work it is a contemporising of Beat generation concerns, showing that they are as relevant in modern society as they were fifty years ago. This is due to the inherent facets of the human condition symptomised by so called civilized society, that the Beat figures so astutely brought to attention and that Requiem serves to highlight in part; addiction, social (and political) opposition and unease and a questioning of one's situation within this society.

Burroughs knew all this and was the one to take it to the furthest boundaries possible, challenging all media and creating the strongest intelligible and coherent opposition to their conventions there has been. So it is no wonder that the reverberations of these achievements are still felt today.



Beckris, V. (1981) With William Burroughs - A Report from the Bunker. 1st ed. New York: Grove Press.

Bridgett, R. An Appraisal of the Films of William Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Antony Balch in Terms of Recent Avant Garde Theory [online] Portland, Oregon: Gary Morris/Gregory Battle: Available from:

Burroughs,W/Gysin, B/Chopin, H (1971) Electronic Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Blackmoor Head Press.

Burroughs, W (2001) Naked Lunch. 1st ed. London: HarperCollins.

Burroughs, W/Gysin, B. (1978) The Third Mind 1st ed. New York: Viking

Burroughs, W. (2001) The Soft Machine. 3rd ed. London: HarperCollins

Cantrill, A & C, (1984) An Interview with Brion Gysin In: Sargeant, J. (2001) Naked Lens - Beat Cinema. 2nd ed. Creation Books.

P-Orridge, G. (1997) "Thee Films": An Account by Genesis P-Orridge. In: Sargeant, J. (2001) Naked Lens - Beat Cinema. 2nd ed. Creation Books.

Hibbard, A. (1999) Conversations with William S. Burroughs. 1st ed. U.S.A: University Press of Mississippi

Miles, B. (1994) El Hombre Invisible: A Portrait. 2nd ed. Hyperion.

Mottram, E. (1977) William Burroughs - The Algebra of Need. 1st ed. London: Marion Boyars.

Sargeant, J. (2001) Naked Lens - Beat Cinema. 2nd ed. Creation Books.

Shero, Jeff (1968) William Burroughs Interview In: Hibbard, A. (ed) Conversations with William S. Burroughs. 1st ed. U.S.A: University Press of Mississippi

Snowden, L. (1992) Which is the Fly and which is the Human? Cronenberg/Burroughs Interview In: Hibbard, A. (ed) Conversations with William S. Burroughs. 1st ed. U.S.A: University Press of Mississippi.

Studio International (1975) The Two Avant-Gardes. Nov/Dec

Thee Majesty live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Thee Majesty live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Thursday, June 23, 2011.

Thee Majesty played in support of the film, The Ballad of Genesis & Lady Jaye.
For this performance, Thee Majesty was Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Bryin Dall and Edley O"Dowd.

Original video footage shot by Jody.

"A Russian scientist has said that we will travel, not only in space, but in time as well,.."

"A Russian scientist has said that we will travel, not only in space, but in time as well, that is to travel in space is to travel in time, and if writers are to travel in space-time and explore the areas opened in the space age, I think they must develop techniques as new and definite as the technique of physical space travel." (William S Burroughs interviewed by Eric Mottram in 1964, [p.14, Hibbard, 1999])