Bryan Gysin

Bryan Gysin is credited with inventing the cut-up technique, a method of creating new texts and images by cutting up and rearranging existing ones. The origins of the technique can be traced back to a chance discovery that Gysin made while living in Tangier, Morocco, in the 1950s.

One day, while cutting through a stack of newspapers with a razor blade, Gysin was struck by the way that the cut edges of the paper created new combinations of text and image. He realized that by cutting up and rearranging words and images, he could create new meanings and associations that were not present in the original texts.

Gysin began experimenting with the technique, cutting up a range of texts, including newspapers, novels, and poetry. He discovered that by rearranging the cut-up fragments, he could create new poems, stories, and images that had a surreal and dreamlike quality.

The cut-up technique became a central aspect of Gysin’s artistic practice, and he used it to create a range of works, including paintings, collages, and literary texts. He also introduced the technique to his friend, the writer William S. Burroughs, who went on to develop his own version of the technique, which he called the “fold-in” method.

The cut-up technique was a significant innovation in the history of art and literature, and it has influenced many artists and writers since its invention. It is seen as a way of breaking down the boundaries between different forms of expression and of creating new meanings and associations that challenge conventional ways of thinking.

The Cut Up and divination

There is a strong connection between the cut-up technique and divination techniques such as tarot reading. Both involve the creation of new meanings through the random arrangement of symbols or images, and both seek to uncover hidden patterns and insights.

In the case of the cut-up technique, the rearrangement of text and image fragments is often done through chance operations, such as throwing dice or drawing lots. This process can be seen as a form of divination, as the resulting combinations of words and images can reveal new meanings and connections that were not present in the original texts.

Similarly, in tarot reading, the selection and arrangement of cards is often done through chance operations, such as shuffling and cutting the deck. The resulting combinations of symbols and images can be interpreted to reveal insights and guidance on a range of issues, from personal relationships to career decisions.

Both the cut-up technique and tarot reading challenge conventional ways of thinking by breaking down the boundaries between different forms of expression and by revealing hidden patterns and connections. They both seek to access deeper levels of meaning and insight, and they both require a willingness to let go of preconceived notions and to trust in the power of chance and intuition.

In the hands of artists and writers such as Bryan Gysin and William S. Burroughs, the cut-up technique became a powerful tool for creative exploration and experimentation. It allowed them to break free from conventional ways of writing and to create new forms of expression that challenged and expanded the boundaries of literature and art.

Bryan Gysin was also deeply interested in the exploration of altered states of consciousness, and he believed that art was a powerful tool for accessing and exploring these states. He saw art as a way of transcending the limitations of the ego and accessing a higher state of consciousness.

Gysin’s interest in altered states of consciousness was influenced by a range of esoteric traditions and practices, including Sufism, Hinduism, and shamanism. He believed that these traditions offered valuable insights into the nature of consciousness and the potential of the human mind.

In his art, Gysin used a range of techniques to create immersive, multi-sensory experiences that could transport the viewer to different realms of experience. He was particularly interested in the use of light and sound to create altered states of consciousness.

The Dreamachine

The Dreamachine was a creative synthesis of art and technology, a perforated paper tube illuminated from within by soft light bulbs and set in motion on a turntable. The tube is intricately crafted with a specific pattern of holes, designed by the visionary artist Bryan Gysin himself.

As an observer sits before the Dreamachine, eyes closed in meditative contemplation, the machine works its magic. With the correct construction and rotation speed, it emits light waves that oscillate between 8 and 13Hz – precisely the same frequency as the alpha waves that permeate the brain during states of deep relaxation, meditation, and the early stages of sleep.

These alpha waves are known to promote mental health and well-being, and as the Dreamachine lulls the observer into a trance-like state, it offers a respite from the noise and chaos of the world. With each gentle pulse of light, the Dreamachine takes the observer on a journey of self-discovery and introspection, unlocking new realms of consciousness and creativity.

Bryan Gysin and William Burroughs Dream Machine

Explorations into altered states

Gysin was known to experiment with a range of substances, including cannabis, LSD, and mescaline, which he used to alter his consciousness and explore new realms of perception. He saw these substances as a way of bypassing the limitations of the conscious mind and accessing deeper levels of intuition and creativity.

Through his use of drugs, Gysin sought to create a new language of art, one that was not bound by the constraints of traditional forms of expression. He saw his experiences with drugs as a way of expanding his consciousness and connecting with the underlying patterns and energies that govern the universe.

Gysin’s use of drugs was also closely tied to his interest in Sufism, an esoteric branch of Islam that emphasizes the pursuit of spiritual knowledge and mystical experiences. Like some Sufi sects, Gysin saw drugs as a way of accessing the divine and uncovering hidden truths about the nature of reality.

Despite the controversy that surrounds the use of drugs in art, Gysin’s work has had a profound impact on the world of contemporary art and literature. His willingness to explore the boundaries of consciousness and push the limits of conventional thinking has inspired countless artists and writers to break free from the constraints of tradition and create new forms of expression that challenge and expand our understanding of the world.

Overall, Gysin saw his exploration of altered states of consciousness as an essential aspect of his artistic practice. He believed that art had the power to transform the viewer and to offer a glimpse into the mysteries of the universe and the nature of consciousness itself. Through his use of light, sound, and other techniques, he created works that could transport the viewer to new realms of experience and open up new avenues for creative exploration.

Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine. Directed by Nic Sheehan(1997)