Spring 14 WTC#3: Word falling, photo falling: William S Burroughs at The Photographers’ Gallery

“We must find out what words are and how they function. They become images when written down, but images of words repeated in the mind and not the image of the thing itself. Try reading something silently without saying the words subvocally. It’s hard to do. Gertrude Stein’s statement: ‘A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose,’ is true only if written down; but as Korzbyski says, a rose (flower) is, whatever is it, not a rose (word). So a rose (word) is a rose (word) is a rose (word) is a rose (word). No flower.”

In Tangier, W S Burroughs dreamt of a falling wardrobe. The following day he saw a man carrying a wardrobe on his back, in a way that, from where he was sitting, only the wardrobe was visible. He remained convinced that he’d slipped forward – that his dream had been a form of time travel.

Image

“If people keep their eyes open they’ll notice these peripheral things around them. Newsweek magazine some time ago ran an advertisement which said: ‘Read by 1,700,000 families in 186 lands.’ Two weeks later the ad came out: ‘Read by 1,600,000 families in 166 lands.’ Why? I’d like to know what happened to those 100,000 families and twenty countries.”

A Profile of William S. Burroughs (1965) By Bill Butler

After cutting up newspaper headlines with our safety scissors in TPG’s lovely studio, we spent some time making notes in the Burroughs’ exhibition with the instruction: ‘catch the intersection points between your inner reality and what you are seeing’.

CUT UPS PUT YOU IN TOUCH WITH WHAT YOU KNOW, AND DO NOT KNOW THAT YOU KNOW

We returned to the studio for a free-write, with prompts thrown in –

Q:‘Would you write on a desert island?’

WB: ‘Yes, I’d write a ship that would come and rescue me. In precise detail.’

Observe what you are thinking at the moment of insight – you can change reality by changing the point of perception.

 These notes were then quartered, cut up, and reassembled (‘cut up the present and the future leaks out’).

After watching the street below and pigeons above in the mysterious, flat, dreamy Camera Obscura, the writers were released into the streets, with the instruction: PAY ATTENTION.

*Check out the page ‘PAY ATTENTION: Burroughs, Flower Arranging and Falling Wardrobes’ to see how we got on.

 

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About claire collison

Writer, photographer, creative facilitator, and breast cancer survivor, I am currently Artist in Residence at the Women's Art Library (WAL) My first novel was a finalist in the Dundee Book Prize, and my short stories and poetry have appeared in print and online. In 2015 I was awarded second place in the inaugural Resurgence Prize, the world's first eco poetry competition, judged by Sir Andrew Motion, Alice Oswald, and Jo Shapcott. This blog began as a space for words generated on my walking/writing workshops at the Mary Ward centre in Bloomsbury - Writing the City (WTC). WTC has since grown to include many other venues, including the Museum of Broken Relationships, the Barbican, the River Rom, Southwark Woods, Aylesbury Estate, and most recently, as part of Walking Women festival, An Intimate Tour of Breasts. I have worked with Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, as the recipient of the first Max Reinhardt Literacy Award, designing teaching resources; and for The Photographers' Gallery, helping school children develop visual literacy as part of 'Seeing More Things'. If you would like me to design a workshop or walk for you, please be in touch!
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