William S. Burroughs – A Word Is a Word Is a Collage (1965)

Experimental Artworks – Kunsthalle Vienna

“… Voice dry as the voice of T.S. Eliot droning from a recording, accent still American after years away from America. Appearance as anonymous as a bank clerk’s, forgettable as a bank robber. Writer of books compared with Kafka, Joyce, and dirty postcards. His bruised readers nurse a sense of outrage and assault after trips through the Burroughs landscape, a desert of screams. All the time he talks he moves around the room, or groping for cigarettes, or gesturing with nervous hands. He lines the cigarette pack up with invisible parallels, rearranges the ash pattern in the ash tray. His work is sentences from newspapers, conversations, other authors, the title of something he is reading, things he hears, what is happening around him; it all makes a sort of collage. ‘Brion Gysin first suggested the collage technique to me in 1960. I had been working toward something like the cut-up method on my own. Naked Lunch is partially a cut-up. Gysin said that writing was fifty years behind painting and why shouldn’t something else be done. He had started something he called ‘permutating points.’ When you start moving ‘time,’ the word, around, you get many different meanings. We have quite a few different words in the English language such as ‘Two – to – too,’ ‘I – aye – eye,’ ‘there – they’re – their. Once you move them around, change the word order slightly, meanings change, new things come out.’ … From a pile of newspapers on the bed he picked up and waved the Daily Express: ‘The English papers are amazing. Lok at the variations in headlines, here in the Daily Express it says: ‘2 A.M. ANXIETY GROWS FOR IKE,’ right here on the front page, the top story. But in this other paper they’ve put it way over on the back page, down at the bottom. Just not the same story.’ He reads a lot of newspapers. For information: ‘I once knew a junkie that would hold [sic] up with the newspapers, a couple of packages of cigarettes, and some candy bars and read them through from first to last page. Everything. And remembered it too. If he got the chance he’d reel the whole thing back at you, every word of it. I spend most of my time editing and filing. Some of the files are here with me, but not all of them. I couldn’t travel everywhere with them. For ten published pages there are fifty pages of notes on file and more on tape. I use a tape recorder, camera, typewriter, scissors, scrapbooks. From the newspapers and from items people send me I get intersections between all sorts of things. Plane crashes, for example. They come in sequence. …”
Reality Studio
Reality Studio – The Naked Express: William Burroughs and Tom Veitch


Collage #6 – Tangiers, top; possibly Ahmed Yacoubi (?), bottom.  Silver gelatin print and scotch tape.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
This entry was posted in Books, Burroughs and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to William S. Burroughs – A Word Is a Word Is a Collage (1965)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s