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DreaMachine

“The word is now a virus. Modern man has lost the option of silence. Try halting sub-vocal speech. Try to achieve even ten seconds of inner silence. You will encounter a resisting organism that forces you to talk. That organism is the word.” - William S. Burroughs

In his “Cut-Up Trilogy” (The Soft Machine / The Ticket that exploded / Nova Express ’61-’67), Burroughs attacked the word virus by turning language inside out, cutting texts up and putting them back together in random order. He also describes the possibilities of time travel, or putting yourself out of time, by immersing oneself in cut ups from historical texts and photographs.

Pioneer of the cut-up method was Burroughs’ friend and collaborator Brion Gysin. He is also the inventor of the “DreaMachine”: a cylinder with slits cut in the sides and a suspended light bulb at its centre, placed on a record turntable and rotated. The rotation speed projects light at a constant frequency of eight to thirteen pulses per second, which corresponds to alpha waves present in the human brain during wakeful relaxation. The flickering light creates a trance-like hallucinatory state. With it, images are freed completely from representation. The piece was officially unveiled in March 1962 at an exhibition titled The Object at the Museé des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Gysin believed that his DreaMachine would eclipse television. Burroughs even thought it could be used to “storm the citadels of enlightenment”.

I am working on a film inspired by Burrough’s Cut-Up work, and as a part of my research build a DreaMachine here at Herhúsið. It is accompanied by a video loop of the mountain view from the residency windows, exploring the sense of timelessness the mountains and passing clouds can give you.