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Brion Gysin
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    (January 19, 1916-July 13, 1986)
    Born in Taplow, England, United Kingdom
    Birth name was John Clifford Brian Gysin
    Painter, author, and performance artist
    Paintings include ‘Sahara Sand’ (1958), ‘Songs of Marrakech’ (1959), ‘Unit II pink, Unit III yellow, Unit IV orange, Unit V blue’ (1961), ‘Francis in the Beat Hotel’ (1962), ‘Roller Poem’ (1971), and ‘Calligraffiti of Fire’ (1986)
    Wrote the novel ‘The Process’ (1969)
    Recorded the albums ‘Songs’ (with Steve Lacy, 1981) and ‘Self Portrait Jumping’ (with Steve Lacy, Ramuntcho Matta, and Don Cherry, 1986)
    With Ian Sommerville, invented the Dreamachine, a stroboscopic device designed to induce hallucinations by producing a pulsing light at the same frequency as the brain’s alpha waves
    He held a grudge for decades after Andre Breton prevented him from exhibiting his paintings alongside the Surrealists.
    He rarely let people see him paint, saying it was a more private act than masturbating.
    He would engage in marathon sessions of scrying – staring into a mirror to see visions – for up to 36 hours, kept going by the occasional cigarette, joint, or cup of coffee passed on by friends.
    His ‘cut-up’ poems would repeat the same words in a different order. (Example: ‘Come to free the words/To free the words, come/Free the words to come...’)
    When the BBC asked him for material they could broadcast, he created a ‘Pistol Poem’ by editing together different gunshots.’
    One critic noted, ‘He published many books but was not thought of in literary circles, created art but was perceived as a writer by artists.’
    His father was killed in action during World War I, when Brion was eight months old.
    He served in the US Army during World War II.
    His paintings were influenced by Japanese calligraphy.
    His cut-up technique, in which a written text is cut up and rearranged to produce a new text, was adopted by William S. Burroughs.
    Burroughs called him ‘the only man I ever respected.’
    He was named a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters (1985).

Credit: C. Fishel

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