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Brion Gysin Interviewed in Paris
Jon Savage

From a forthcoming book of interviews with Brion Gysin, edited by 
Genesis P-Orridge. In Paris, Jon Savage asked the questions . . .

R/S: You said it was worth surviving the whole cancer operation 
because there were some things you wanted to do-
BRION: Oh, you make that sound much too optimistic-too positive! No 
no . . . the only reason for surviving was to wrap up some odds and 
ends, and some of them are already wound up. I mean like getting 
The Third Mind published. Less satisfactory - getting Dreamachines 
into production, which they are, only partially. And getting some 
shape to my life as a painter-and that hasn't really happened yet-I 
mean, some successes along the way like this show at the museum . . 
. but this will take more work.
R/S: Do you mean wrapping things up, or just sort of putting things in 
perspective, or continuing-
BRION: Mostly wrapping them up. Because I have plenty of things to 
continue. Let's say-the songs that I've written with Steve Lacy [Steve 
Lacy and Brion Gysin Songs (12" LP + 7" 45), Hat Hut Records, Box 
127, West Park, NYC, NY 12493, or, Box 461, 4106 Therwil, 
Switzerland.]-I want to get that all onto a record . . . if that's the ideal 
receptacle for it, whatever. I have a long manuscript that I would 
like to finish, but I found I'm not the activist I once thought I was. 
It's very difficult to do too many things at once-in fact I can't really 
ever do two things at once.
R/S: Is the manuscript The Beat Hotel?
BRION: Yeah.
R/S: The bit that was published in Soft Need - was that the beginning 
BRION: That was just a small piece in the middle.
R/S: Ideally, would it be a book like The Process?
BRION: It would have a form, yes, and I have found a form - it took 
me many years to find the exact form. And I really have wanted to 
fill the form that I now can see ahead of me.

The Process certainly is a very formed book - the whole idea actually 
end-to-end. So in that same way-Yes, I do now have an exact 
receptacle of the form into which I would pour all this.
R/S: Is that how you worked with The Process as well?
BRION: Yes, I only was able to work when I had found the form . . . it 
filled itself in, sort of inevitably. Once the form was recognized, then 
the material sliped into its proper place quite easily.
R/S: Because - in The Process . . . there's an enormous mixture. On 
one level there were all sorts of allusions to Othello and Homer, and 
then . . .there seemed to be people like Mya who were definitely sort 
of creations that you'd actually known. Also, there was lots of ethnic 
stuff about Morocco . . . there seemed to be a lot of different things-
BRION: Well, I had decided very definitely to put into it practically 
everything that I know about Morocco, because it would be 
impossible for me to write any more, inasmuch as it's rather the 
stomping ground of Paul Bowles, who has invented his own 
mysterious, murderous Morocco which is not mine. But, it's his 
territory as much as Malaysia was the territory of Maugham . . . My 
good friend Sanche de Gramont has written a very successful book 
about him (Maugham).
R/S: To a lot of people you're only known as a writer - is painting 
actually harder to organize?
BRION: They're both very hard to organize. There are definite forms 
for getting a book published or not published, and getting some 
money or not getting any money from it . . . Whereas painting is 
much more formless, much more mysterious . . . As to how a piece of 
spoiled canvas or scribbled-on paper suddenly becomes worth an 
enormous amount of money . . . has nothing to do with the case of 
literature and life and a career.
R/S: In all the books you put out you're actually communicating to a 
large number of people instantly, because-let's say the book has a 
run of two thousand-there'll probably be about ten thousand people 
who read it-and that's a lot of people. That's more than will probably 
ever see a picture of yours . . .
BRION: Yeah, that's true . . . And certainly more people can read a 
book than can "read" a picture, in any case. The level of pictorial 
education is not the same as just the ordinary literacy level of people 
who can read a book and get one kind of sense out of it, at any rate. 
Pictures reverberate much longer than a book does, because of the 
fact that they exist in a very different time from the time of a book. 
The time of a book is the imagined time in which the book is written 
(which it is meant to represent) . . . and the time that it takes to read 
it. The time in music is the time that it takes to play it from the 
beginning to the end. Whereas a picture changes with every second 
of the day because of the changing light . . . all of what I do changes 
that dramatically, even. And many people that I have known who 
own pictures of mine have said, "You know, I owned that picture for 
several years before one day, I happened to look at it and then I saw 
it. I had already bought it because I liked it, but I hadn't really seen 
it until several years after I had owned it." Well - that's not the same 
time that a book exists in.
R/S: Do you actually prefer either medium, or is that irrelevant - or 
do you just like them both for different reasons?
BRION: Yes, apparently. It's rather troublesome to me as a matter of 
fact - to like them equally well.
R/S: Do you think the course of your career would have been 
different if . . . I think people find it very hard to cope with the fact 
that one does two different things at once-
BRION: I certainly do, and I don't do just two, I do more than two. 
Yes-as you understand the word "career"-it's certainly a mistake to 
do more than one thing. In fact, even if it's only in sports or in a 
physical skill of some kind, you are better off to do just one thing . . . 
Not everybody can be a decathalon hero . . .
R/S: How do your paintings get out? Do they all go through galleries, 
BRION: No, exhibitions. I've never had a gallery that really occupied 
itself with my career at all, and that's a very considerable lack. As I 
was saying to you, it's insane that my work should be in all the 
museums in France and all the important museums in America, and 
not in any gallery. But that's obviously my fault . . . more my fault 
than theirs, at any rate.
R/S: Presumably, painting is actually also different from a business 
point of view, in that you presumably (if you have an exhibition, sell 
paintings) make a fair amount of money every few years. Whereas 
with a book, you may not make any money at all, but they might 
come out more frequently-
BRION: No, it doesn't really work that way. If you make a book which 
is a hit book, you make quite a good deal of money. If you make 
anything less than a hit, you make nothing at all. Because they find 
ways of charging it off to advertising or public relations or god 
knows what, and you really get only your advance. I personally have 
never seen any royalties, except some so ludicrous that they're not 
even worth mentioning.

In regard to pictures, they are sold by a gallery which takes a 
percentage according to whether you have made an agreement for 
just that one show, or - if you are going to work a number of years 
with that gallery, they will then pay you a monthly stipend, and they 
take a much greater percentage of the price for which the picture is 
sold at that time. And if the picture is re-sold after that, you have no 
lien at all on the money. As in the case of the Jasper Johns that he 
sold for nine hundred dollars eleven or twelve years ago . . . and has 
now been sold for the ludicrous sum of a million dollars.
R/S: I bet he's pissed off-
BRION: Not really - he said he just doesn't understand it. He was 
brought up during the years of the Depression, and such sums are 
really quite unreal to him . . .
BRION: One of the reasons is that . . . I think it scares people . . . 
Because of the fact that it deals with the area of interior visions 
which has never been tapped before. Except in history, one knows of 
cases - in French history, Catherine de Medici for example, had 
Nostradamus sitting up on the top of a tower (which is now just 
being restored, at the present time, over there). and there was no 
pollution in those days . . . one didn't have any screen between the 
man on top of the tower and the sun. and he used to sit up there and 
with the fingers of his hands spread like this would flicker his 
fingers over his closed eyes, and would interpret his visions in a way 
which were of influence to her in regard to her political powers . . . 
they were like instructions from a higher power.
R/S: But they were good visions-
BRION: They could also foretell bad things too. Peter the Great also 
had somebody who sat on the top of a tower and flickered his fingers 
like that across his closed eyelids . . . And any of us today can go and 
look out the window or lie on a field and do it, and you get a great 
deal of the type of visions - in fact, it's the same area in the alpha 
bands of excitation of the brain - within the alpha band between 
eight and thirteen flickers a second. And the Dreamachine produces 
this continuously, without interruption, unless you yourself interrupt 
it by opening your eyes like that.

So, the experience can be pushed a great deal further - into an area 
which is like real dreams. For example, very often people compare it 
to films. Well, who can say who is projecting these films - where do 
these films come from? If you look at it as I am rather inclined to 
now-like being the source of all vision-inasmuch as within my 
experience of many hundreds of hours of looking at the Dreamachine, 
I have seen in it practically everything that I have ever seen-that is, 
all imagery. All the images of established religions, for example, 
appear - crosses appear, to begin with; eyes of Isis float by, and 
many of the other symbols like that appear as if they were the 
Jungian symbols that he considered were common to all mankind.

And then one goes very much further - one gets flashes of memory, 
one gets these little films that are apparently being projected into 
one's head . . . one then gets into an area where all vision is as in a 
complete circle of 360 degres, and one is plunged into a dream 
situation that's occurring all around one. And it may be true that this 
is all that one can see . . . that indeed the alpha rhythm contains the 
whole human program of vision. Well-that is a big package to deal 
with-and I don't think anybody particularly wants . . . amateurs 
sitting in front of Dreamachines fiddling with it, perhaps . . .
R/S: Are you paranoid or realistic (depending on your definition of 
that). Do you think that part of the fact that the Dreamachines 
haven't turned out is deliberate?
BRION: Somebody said that the lesson of the 60s was the fact that all 
the paranoids turned out to be right!
R/S: I think William Burroughs said that: a paranoid is somebody 
who knows what's going on-
BRION: Who see what's happening. And it's a very easy package of 
dismissal into which to dump every kind of objection to what is going 
on. Who can say? I don't really know - it seems to me much more 
random than that. I don't feel paranoid in that-I don't think there's 
some sort of agency after me-or if they are, they're doing it with kid 
gloves . . .
R/S: Talking about dream-like states . . . is there any sort of 
Surrealist source in that? Because they were trying . . . they made 
some attempts to merge the two states . . . Has the Dreamachine and 
even cut-ups taken it a whole stage further?
BRION: Oh, but quite a different stage. It's actually dealing with the 
material involved - I mean, cut-ups are taking the actual matter of 
writing as if it were the same as the matter involved in sculpting or 
in painting . . . and handling it with a plastic manner. The 
Dreamachine is something else again, as it gives an extended vision 
of one's own interior capacities, which could also be overwhelming. 
After all, people could think that these were being imposed upon 
them - before they were capable of realizing that these were a part 
of all human experience. And from there - say they did realize that - 
well, a great deal of what they see in life would be changed, it's true.

In some people's lives, they say, "Oh yes, I've had visions like that 
when I rubbed my thumbs in my eyes," or, "Yes, I remember one 
time I was going past a row of trees" or something or another like 
that. It would become more general knowledge that this is part of 
one's interior vision, and I think that-I would even go as far as 
saying that this particular century in which we live has given a great 
importance to painting, and this knowledge of one's own interior 
possibilities would rather lessen the importance - as there have been 
other centuries which have given greater importance to say, 
architecture or music. Painting itself looks to me like it's on its way 
out - as though it were dying on the vine. And this recognition of 
one's own interior possibilities might very well supplant it.
R/S: Why would you say painting is dying on the vine? Is it because 
of the gallery system . . . is it because of the social and cultural place 
it has?
BRION: No, it really began with the Einstein apprehension of the 
physical quality of the world, where the energy of the world (which 
is supposed to be represented in the arts, after all) is declared to 
equal m, which is the mass of the earth times the speed of light 
squared. And anybody who realized that you can change the forces 
in an equation-you can change the elements from one side to the 
other of the equation-in the same way people realized that the 
matter of painting (which for the last few centuries has been 
considered to be colors, ground colors floated in oil and laid onto a 
surface and dried, producing an effect of luminosity and 
transparency) could be changed by adding pieces of cut-up 
newspaper as the Cubists did, or throwing sand into the mixture to 
produce exploding kind of matter itself. So, matter was being played 
with very early in painting . . . by the beginning of the twentieth 
century, at any rate . . .

Here's the energy-which is sort of the talent or the genius of the 
artist-represented by the speed of light squared which is a flash 
vision forward. And the m is the oil and vinegar mixtue-like I always 
said-like you're making a salad . . . here was oil and linseed oil and 
lengtheners like turpentine and whatnot were used as a medium in 
which to float colors and prduce an image of the world. But then one 
say that that image was not sufficient. By the time that photography 
had jumped into its place in the middle of the nineteenth century, 
people had annouced it: "As of today, painting is dead!" That was the 
announcement with which photography was hailed, at the time, and 
there was such a grain of truth in this, that one thought that 
obviously pursuing the exact representation and the way of . . . 
hyperrealism was no longer interesting - so let's try and change the 
nature of the matter. And so - sand was thrown into the canvas . . . 
collages were invented, and that's why I thought that all of those 
techniques which had entered into the arts in the beginning of the 
nineteenth century hadn't even touched the realm of literature yet.
R/S: I think you'd be surprised to see how much cut-ups have 
actually been assimilated and taken for granted-
BRION: That's true - even in France, where it doesn't work nearly as 
well because of the nature of the language . . . Almost immediately, 
within the very first few months, there was a group of American 
poets that brought out a two-volume book of their 'genius' work 
called Locus Solus, which was all cut-ups. But they never 
acknowledged it - it happened within six months of the publication 
of Minutes To Go, in January 1960.
R/S: How did you work the cut-ups-was it an accident which you 
then observed and then built upon systematically?
BRION: Yes - that's what it was, an accident . . . but which I 
recognized immediately as it happened, because of knowing of all the 
other past things - I knew about the history of the arts, let's say. And 
it seemed like a marvelous thing to give to William, who had a huge 
body of work to which it could immediately be applied. It wasn't 
applicable to my condition because I didn't have that body of work 
just to take and cut up and produce something new with. I would 
have to produce new work which then I would cut up - it seemed 
like a contradiction in terms. and William was doing so well with the 
marvelous subjects that he had, which were drugs, sex and rock'n'roll 
- he was doing good with it. So-let him have it!
R/S: And indeed The Process is cut-up-
BRION: No, there are lots of cut-ups in it and lots of things that came 
out of using cut-ups, but very thoroughly assimilated-
R/S: It's more stylized, I think, and the temporal cut-ups are very 
clear . . . they're mated, actually. A lot of William's books are quite 
hard to read all the way through because you just sort of jump and 
pick bits out . . . I just like savoring bits, all the gamey bits, or 
whatever. But The Process is much more like a proper novel . . . it 
would seem to be scripted.
BRION: It's tooled actually . . . The general all-over picture is that 
there's no voice of an omniscient author, and that these are a series 
of voices which are the different presences of speech. There's I, thou, 
he, she, it, and you-they, etc . . . As I said, they were tooled down 
until they fitted like that, and lots of the pieces going through the 
information was cut-up and echoes of Herotodus, echoes of T. E. 
Lawrence - echoes of all kinds of people are cut up right into it to 
give it that sort of particular timeless flavor.


BRION: . . . I was always telling William - in fact it's the thing that did 
pull us out of the hole - was my insisting on this with William, who 
had always just thrown, practically abandoned, his manuscripts 
everywhere. Lots of manuscripts have disappeared and god knows if 
they'll ever see the light of day. The suitcase full of material that 
never went into Naked Lunch was left behind in Tangier and the 
street boys were selling it for a dollar a page!
R/S: So somebody somewhere has got them-
BRION: A few pages here and there . . . But there is a huge amount of 
material in Lichtenstein . . . you've seen the William Burroughs 
Archive [catalog]? All of that stuff hasn't been seen by anybody. One 
hopes . . . very soon it will be sold to somebody else or sold to a 
university who will know how to catalogue it and put it at the 
disposal of people who want to consult it. But as it is now, it's just 
wrapped up in boxes in Lichtenstein.
R/S: Why is it there?
BRION: It was bought by somebody in Lichtenstein.
R/S: Are they doing any research on it?
BRION: No. Nobody's allowed to look at it at all . . . The man who owns 
it has a very good reason - that he knows nothing about how to 
catalogue it, and as it has once been catalogued as it appears in that 
printed book, he wants the material to remain just in that order, in 
order to be able to hand it on intact to somebody else. Because he 
made a poor investment for reasons which had to do with the 
enormous money gap that occurrred between the dollar and the 
Swiss franc. Like, if he sold it today for a sum which is offered, he 
would make a profit of forty-five percent on his dollars, but he'd be 
losing money on his Swiss francs . . .
R/S: When did you first start thinking about films?
BRION: Right then at that time, particularly saying to William that . . . 
we should get hold of somebody that could help us - that was in the 
business already. And right in that same short street which is only 
one block long, somebody that I knew just as a neighbor invited me 
to a party, and that's where we met Antony Balch.

Antony had been intent on making films since he'd been twelve 
years old . . . Our plans didn't work out - I mean, we made only those 
two short films, after all, and we had meant to make at least Naked 
Lunch - that's never been made yet, although I wrote two scripts for 
it at different times. A lot of money was spent . . .
R/S: I've seen the storyboard for one of those . . . that Genesis P-
Orridge has.
BRION: We saw it when Antony died-it was very nearly thrown 
away, all of that material-his mother didn't know anything about 
him, and none of his business associates did, because they were 
really quite on a different beam with him. And it seemed the best 
idea for Gen to have it - which is why I sort of shoved it off in that 
direction. He has the storyboard and a whole layout of the pictures . . 
. of camera angles and shots and stuff like that.
R/S: Cans of film-
BRION: Which he hasn't seen yet.
R/S: I'm dying to see that stuff-
BRION: So are we all.
R/S: Was it all on 16mm?
BRION: Thirty-five. There may be some 16mm in there, but 
everything they shot was always in 35mm . . . and in 70mm.
R/S: Did you actually find it difficult to do at the time?
BRION: Of course! The money's always enormous! It's always very 
expensive. Antony was a very successful distributor of films, and 
made a good deal of money. He also spent a good deal of money, as 
one does in that movie world. You have to spend that sort of money 
in order to be able to get to the people who will put up a good deal 
more money. You have to travel around as we did and see them and 
meet them and whatnot, and none of those things worked out. 
Antony spent a really . . . I have no idea of how much, but, say- fifty 
or a hundred thousand pounds, perhaps already was spent on those 
film projects . . . 
R/S: William also did a bok recently called The Blade Runner - do you 
know if that's to be made into a film?
BRION: No, nothing's been made into a film and put on the screen 
except the two that we did together, Towers Open Fire and the Cut-
ups, and then Antony and he did Bill and Tony on 70mm. And then 
the material that Genesis now has which has never been seen by 
anybody . . .
R/S: Where were those films done?
BRION: They were done in Paris, London, New York and Tangier.
R/S: Over a period of years?
BRION: No, not all that long.
R/S: When they came out, were they actually shown?
BRION: Sure they were shown. And even now they're still shockers 
when they're shown. People yell and scream and jump up in their 
seats and are very affected by them, still. They still look very, very 
new to people.
R/S: I'd agree with that. I saw them . . . when Throbbing Gristle was 
playing . . . people were actually completely flipped out, and the 
whole concert ended up in a huge fight. The whole evening was very, 
very charged . . . I felt, not as a result (but pretty damn nearly) of 
seeing those two films first, in combination with all of that.
BRION: Sure. Well, the same thing happened in New York, where you 
would think the audience might be more blase, but they were not - 
people were also jumping up and down there too. Almost everything 
that we've done still has that kind of charge in it . . .
R/S: In a way that's wonderful-
BRION: Well, it's also difficult to live with, because people - as 
recently as this week, where I've been frequenting all the art dealers 
that I know who are now sitting there ensconced in their art fairs 
dealing in million dollar, half million dollar pictures that they have 
hung around the walls of their stalls - are just sitting thre on their 
balls saying, "You know that's what we're doing, and you, dear Brion, 
as much as we appreciate you, you're still very avantgarde . . . We're 
tired old gentlemen, you know - if you'd only come to us twenty 
years ago when were full of enthusiasm . . . " Of course, twenty-

I did . . . I've known them that long, and they gave the same answer 
then. They were all after ten minute masterpieces by Andy Warhol 
or Frank Stella or any of those stars that they've invented, who sell 
for huge sums of money . . .
R/S: Were those two films originally part of larger things?
BRION: No, they were meant to be what they are. For the Cut-ups, a 
great deal more film was exposed than that, and that's presumably 
what Genesis has there now - the stuff that one didn't use . . . more 
than that, even. I'm not quite sure myself - Antony was always fairly 
vague about it, even . . .

We were always going to see that old stuff again, but there was 
always new stuff to see - we'd be visioning that, and I'd say, "When 
are we going to vision all the rest of the stuff that you have there?" - ""Well, it's at, you know, the B.F.I. in cans . . . " So, I'm not sure what 
Genesis has. A good deal of it is photographs of me working in Paris, 
and working . . . painting a huge great big paper in New York that 
William just - left the studio and left the paper behind. It was 
shoved up into a place where you could easily have forgotten it, but 
he's always been a great one for just picking up his hat and what he 
can hold in one hand and-a portable typewriter in the left hand-he 
leaves his own manuscripts behind, so I can't really complain too 
much when he's left a great deal of my work behind. He has-he's 
destroyed an enormous amount of my work-but he's destroyed a 
great deal of his own by just letting go . . .
R/S: I suppose at the time it didn't seem to matter.
BRION: Well, one was just so busy and, having all these tons of paper 
to move around and-where were you going to put them-and, where 
one was going one wasn't quite sure-it wasn't as if one was going 
home . . . we were just settling some place else for awhile . . .

""Romance is about losing, essentially. Delights are about control . . . "


BRION: The American scene is certainly full of death. Full of it, my 
god. The Monster of Augsburg - in my childhood there was a horrible 
cat who, at the end of the war, 1919, had eaten some thirty-two 
boys. He made them into pates and sold them to his friends and stuff 
like that. Well, this was considered very extraordinary: a case for 
Krafft-Ebing. But now, here's Rosalyn Constable Carter, whatever her 
name is, in a photograph with-
SLEAZY: Yeah, but the fact that Gacy was around just meant that he 
was a little bit more-
BRION: You're absolutely mad, man, he was a community leader. He 
dressed up as Santa Claus and he gave Santa Claus performances; he 
wasn't disguised at all. That's who he really was, he was Santa Claus . 
. . 

He was a pillar of society, like a Norman robber baron. You got all 
these people buried under you, you put them through the dungeons - 
you got them like that. Why shouldn't you go up and shake the 
President's wife's hand and get you picture taken? . . .

We've arrived back where we've always been. Now things are getting 
back to normal when this is happening. Who did Eleanor of Aquitaine 
have for dinner? She had Gilles de Rais, who had eaten one-hundred-
and -thirty five boys, or something like that - that's who came to 
dinner in those times. Little Mrs. Carter from the South - she's 
getting right up there in history! She's in there with Empress 
Theodora and Messalina. She's rubbing elbows with good company 
like that. She's got the Monster of Augsburg right there, turned into a 
fat Kiwanian. I think that's the way it's going . . .
SLEAZY: I don't think any of that stuff actually happens in New York. 
It always happens in suburbs, doesn't it?
BRION: Oh no, it happens on the WestSide . . .
SLEAZY: You don't get mass murderers in New York. You get 
murderers obviously. You get muggings, you get stuff like that, but 
you don't get people that are really specialized.
BRION: You kidding yourself? You just haven't been frequenting the 
specialists . . .


BRION: Paper was invented by the Chinese, and got to the Arabs 
about the eighth century. Before then, there'd been papyrus paper 
from Egypt, which was older, of course. But the sort of paper as we 
know it appears in Europe only about the twelfth century, and came 
from Arab sources through Sicily, through the German kings - 
Hohenstauffen. Kings of Sicily imported paper first of all, because 
they had large schools set up of people, copying manuscripts for the 
first time onto paper. And so paper making made its way in Europe 
connected with good water, which is very important - the water 
source. All the paper mills were set up along rivers that were then 
still very clear. The Rhine was clear until my day; I saw the Rhine 
clear in 1930. Now it's a great big sewer . . . dangerous sewer.

My first cousins had a paper factory on the Rhine from about 1500, 
maybe earlier, and made paper from reclaimed linen sheets and 
things like that; made that fantastic handmade linen paper that's so 
tough you can barely tear it. And they made money for bank notes 
too, for a long time - centuries.

As a child, I made paper there too, where there was this big mess 
like porridge-Genesis P-Orridge!-and you'd grab a dollop of it in a big 
wooden spoon and throw it into a box that had a net at the bottom 
like a sieve, and you'd dump it up and down in a mortar like that 
until a sort of drool was distributed evenly all over the surface of 
your mesh. Then you'd turn it out on a marble slab and roll it either 
cold or hot . . . and that was handmade paper.

In the S----- Museum they still have those things shown, materials 
that they used and the machines that they had, stuff like that. Their 
paper went up and down the Rhine-from Amsterdam-it went quickly 
and easily to London; that was the nearest port. So they and people 
from Basel used to go back and forth from London from Elizabethan 
times regularly. Well, the Holbein, who was the principal painter at 
the court of Henry VIII, came from Basel, and worked on paper. And 
this woman that I know has this collection of papers that are of such 
value that she's always been afraid to distribute them in any way, 
because of the fact that they could fall so easily into the hands of 
forgers. And she should worry.

All collections are full of fakes and forgeries, in any case. I spent a 
whole winter working and going through the archives that the 
Louvre has here in Paris. You have to get special permission and a 
letter from your embassy and all kinds of stuff to get in - I did that. 
And I was particularly interested in the German and Basel painters 
and graphistes like Durer and Holbein and Urs Graf and Nikolaus 
Manuel Deutsch, of which they have a big collection. And half of their 
Durers are fakes! At least half. Obvious fakes. And they say, "Yes, 
yes, we know they're fakes, but you know, they've been here so long 
- they were given by somebody in the eighteenth century, so they 
have some kind of historical value, and we're not saving them simply 
because they are real or are very good, but . . . " - You know, those 
kind of museum-ology-type stories that they tell; I guess they're 
reasonable enough. But this woman has given me quite a lot of these 
different papers. I have still big wads of them in there that I haven't 
used. And I have used them on some very interesting projects, but I 
don't have enough to . . . a book of this size, for example. I wouldn't 
even be able to make a single copy.
GEN: That's a nice sort of connection, timewise, isn't it?
BRION:  As I said, it was studying Japanese-the Japanese language 
school-that got me so interested in paper and ink, really. It's a whole 
study and it's the basis of their aesthetic. As a matter of fact it's 
based on the two-
GEN: Actually coming from the materials rather than imposing them.
BRION: Right.
GEN: Strange coincidence that there is a family connection . . . Can't 
escape your roots, boy! - What is it he says in Towers Open Fire? ""You can't deny your blood."
BRION: I deny that statement!
GEN: I got a horrible sensation the other day watching myself on a 
video. I suddenly looked and - I did an expression identical to my 
father. It was horrible, I thought, "Oh shit!" . . . That always worries 
me a bit - being trapped.
BRION: "Somber moor, looking like Othello."
(tape ends)


BRION: . . . We live in a period, I think, unique in all history. No house 
has an attic anymore, there's no granny to put it in the attic - 
granny's gone away to Florida to an old age home in St. Petersburg. 
Nobody even knows her maiden name. You ask any American the 
maiden name of either one of his grandmothers and he hasn't got 
any idea. So there's no connection anymore - most of them don't 
want any connection. They've decided that they're going to be just 
Americans, for one reason or another.

More than that, we have this enormous privilege which I think is 
unique and comes about for the first time in any society - of it being 
possible to have a room of one's own. Nobody has a room of his or 
her own ever in all of history. Everybody lived with . . . dogs . . . and 
camels . . .
GEN: You mean, even within somebody's family you have your own 
BRION: Yeah, it was never possible. You always slept with brothers 
and sisters, and mothers and fathers and grandparents and all sorts 
of people; maids living in the house, sleeping behind the kitchen 
door. Do you know how much the idea of having a room to yourself 
has changed the whole sexual scene? In fact, I think that really the 
basis of the sexual scene is the fact that it's been possible to be able 
to be alone to do these fancy things that you've thought up. It was 
never possible if you lived in the bosom of a family, how can you 
possibly? People do get up in some really kinky situations but not 
like that.

And I think a society like Muslim society where all sexuality occurs 
with your clothes on! I was once sitting with a man who had four 
wives and I suggested that any one of his wives might have seen him 
with his clothes off and he was shocked at the idea. And sex is very 
quick, and religious law demands immediate washing after it so it's 
all bangbangbang and shoo . . . zoot to wash yourself! None of this 
languorous lying around and this luxury situation that everybody's 
thought about; for our ancestors that never really existed at all. 
Maybe sometims for a sultan and his harem, yes. But even so, just 
think of that: all of them tattling on each other and jealous of each 
other and poisoning each other's children - all that happened 
regularly, and still does.
GEN: The only way to change a society properly is to break down the 
family units and the atomic structure of whatever they call it. 'Til 
you break it down you can't break any other system of control. At 
the moment most societies still are based on the assumption of 
families, so it's one of the key areas to fight if you want to change 
BRION: Yeah, but do you? Does one? Are you going to change it into 
GEN: Change it into what!? Why do people always have to change 
things into something else?
BRION: William changes it into a Wild Boys scene - you and I know 
that William himself wouldn't survive a wild boys scene! (laughs)
GEN: . . . I think . . . loose alliances you choose, not a family in the 
normal sense, but people you find you relate to more naturally than 
you do people who are related by blood. Whom you tend to associate 
with more often than you do with (what do you call them?) filial 
family. I've never understood the logic of the filial family - why just 
because somebody came out of the same fanny you should like them, 
or because somebody was your mother's sister you should like them.
BRION: Well, it hardly ever happens, does it?
GEN: No, but it's traditional that you keep in touch with aunts and 
uncles and cousins and all that shit, you know. And it's very unlikely 
you even like your own family. But it's still suggested to you from an 
early age that it's quite natural and reasonable to like relatives. And 
to dislike relatives is unnatural.
BRION: Not in my family . . .


GEN: How did William lose part of his finger?
BRION: The most commonly told story is that he cut it off himself and 
threw it into the face of a psychoanalyst who was questioning him in 
an army examination . . . 
GEN: And that's the story he tells?
BRION: No, he doesn't it, other people tell it. He's never told it to 
anybody. He doesn't say anything-
GEN: As usual. I guess that's a good technique sometimes: to clam up. 
I do remember it now.
BRION: He's not the only one. Partly the legend may be due to 
Maraini, who was an Italian who wrote a very admirable book called 
Secret Tibet twenty years ago, and more recently a monograph that 
was written also twenty years ago (it has come out only now) about 
Japan. And he and his wife and three daughters were taken prisoner 
by the Japanese at a time when he had come as a diplomatic-cultural 
expert from Italy to Japan, and then Mussolini joined with the Axis 
and all the Italians were demanded-obliged-to take their fascist oath. 
And they refused and so they were thrown out to the Japanese 
prisoner camp where they were very badly treated.

Maraini demanded an interview with the general and- here's this 
Japanese general sitting with regimental sword in front of him like 
that, and Maraini . . . took his sword, and cut off his own finger and 
threw it into the man's face. And that had absolutely the desired 
effect - it was the thing that really impressed the Japanese more 
than anything else that he could have done. Everybody got more 
food, and lives were saved by this gesture. So maybe it's partly that 
true story that's been loaned to William as part of his legend. But 
that didn't happen quite that way.
GEN: So you've lost a toe, and he's lost some finger-
BRION: Everybody loses a little something here and there on the way 
through this rat race . . .

This excerpt is from a forthcoming book of interviews with Brion 
Gysin, edited by Genesis P-Orridge, Genesis and Peter (Sleazy) 
Christopherson asked the questions . . .

""Real total war has become information war, it is being fought now . . 
. "

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