me I can see walls and curtains and a bed and
a computer and a table and clothes. Words allow
me to file away my surroundings – I’m
convinced that this is normal.
But this is not normal – these objects are
deeply strange - odd – space dust –
clusters of information - and here I am writing
about them – very, very odd.
been thinking about Gysin’s art and why
I find it interesting. I don’t know what
Gysin’s art means but I think I’ve
is self referential – a grid – a trap
– purely arbitrary but extremely important
– we define ourselves by it – DEFINE,
by the way, is a word. (Who are ourselves? How much
of us is us? What proportion is conditioning? Who’s
doing the defining?)
We humans are caught in language – Sassaure
and Wittgenstein’s “The meaning of
a word is explained by the explanation of its
All this stuff is easy to say – but rather
like saying “I will die” we don’t
really believe it – we can never appreciate
it – it goes against our construction. Stop
struggling and the skin of language heals quickly.
Gysin - Tuning into the multimedia age (Thames
you do want out, well what do you do? Disorder
the senses? Altered states is one way –
trance/drugs that let you, maybe, step outside
your consciousness - write 1 to 20 and the numbers
are in an unusual pattern. It lets you escape
the order. The accepted common-sense order (most
society order is common sense - common think –
common story). Oh and learn to draw!
is key and underlying all his art is Gysin’s
research into the mystical (religion, scientology,
control, cabalism, rituals, sigils, Sufism, making
connections, the rites of Pan, Hassan etc etc)
– the silly story goes that people who could
read when the majority could not have cradled
their knowledge – their way out (magic)
– so you get the creation of the golem by
the speaking of all the points in a sphere or
something. Pi or something.
are permutation (fractals?). Permutation within
established order is subversion. Subversion is
funny – because it lets you escape the dreary
certainty of decline and death – reinforces
reverse entropy, with replication = Life! Allows
you to escape for a moment – the order is
is often the physical expression/reaction to reordering
– we need to be able to cope with change
to survive – that’s why it’s
pleasant. The only certainty is uncertainty yet
we cannot cope with this infinity – we need
the order to survive – yet it’s dreary.
Negative capability – to hold conflicting
ideas in your head at the same time.. “What’s
the secret of (“Timing”) comedy?”
asked a journalist on a regional news TV programme.
this out is dreary – very un-stylish and
as quite a few people know – you can’t
know it without being it – which is the
answer I hate but it’s true – especially
with the consciousness stuff. Without the experience
the words are even hollow-er than usual. It’s
possible to pull a butterfly to pieces –
quite difficult to shove the wings back into the
sockets and get it flying again. The trick is
no fun if you can see how it is done. If others
can see how it is done, there will be less money
in its execution.
wanted out and I admire him for this – he
went about it in a witty, stylish, intelligent,
interesting, economic-al, with lots of personal
issues, manner. To not be satisfied. Style –
there’s little else worth having. Grid and
sigils and time and place and hype!
how to escape? You can try no-think. You can try
suicide. You can try surrender to a truth. You
can try repackaging your beliefs and forgetting
bits you don’t like. You can try growing
up! You can try politics. You can try questioning
the place of the individual within your economy.
You can try complacency. You can try drowning
everything out with drink and drugs and sanctioned
gambling and food. But if “our open eyes
can see no other way” what is there to do?
need to survive (make money in the west, soft
people) and you can’t escape the flattering
society narratives and aspirations - yet you don’t
want unpleasant work. Is there thought after death?
If you’re a coward you may not want to risk
death, not quite yet.
the urge to create is still there – so you
have to find a way out of words – see Gysin’s
may run may read. You could try pulling all the
angles together and making it your life. A bit
“I am that I am” - by writing down
all permutations of the sentence - you’ve
boxed in and revealed the parameters – nearly
laid the trap bare. Writing allows a distance
– the externalization of problems –
although the map is not the territory –
you can apply what you’ve learnt to the
cut up the map – disturb the order –
access random – rearrange the pieces. How
random is random? Time chance space?
Gysin, from ‘Notes on Painting’ 1960/1963:
may write only what I know in space: I am that
I am. Thee, Word, begat Me and this is all I know
about myself at any point in
space. But the potent phrase is a word-lock of
static intention; meant
to keep me in my place. Any point in space is
an argument place and I will not be confined to
one point, I will argue out the word-lock so that
I can move. I want to travel everywhere in Space.”
So, I think Gysin’s trying to write himself
out of/into the story grid and I think he did
it well. Drugs magic, art, words, dreamachine,
marketing, control, music, media, money, thought,
life. Repetition overload. Like a sex machine.
Get on up. Mr Gysin, get upp-a. In the beginning
was the word.
Ciarán Ryan - October 2004
Update: Gysin exhibition, January 2009
been a few years since - took my eye off Gysin.
now it seems...
his time come? Can we cope with now we're used
to multiple layers of meaning thanks to internet.
The first artist of the quantum age?
been reading a lot about Gysin when I wrote the
above. It was my brief attempt at trying to make
some sense. When I get a chance I'll edit it to
make it easier to read.
thought I'd have grown out of Gysin by now...
but five years on, there's still something about
his art and methods that speaks to me - as Gysin
said - you'll know your music when you hear it.
the past few years interest seems to have grown
and organised around Gysin - I'll write more soon.
See Wikipedia's links, too:
Gysin on Wikipedia