Collecting William S. Burroughs and the Arts

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Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker

Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting

There are a lot of “what ifs” in book collecting. What if I had bought this and not that? What if I had more money? Or more time? What if I collected this and not that? “What if I did not collect William Burroughs?” is a question I consider. In a piece I wrote over a decade ago, I came to the conclusion that I would have collected Charles Olson instead. The question that serves as the boundary I can never cross or the horizon I can never see beyond is “What if I did not collect?” Such a question throws my very existence into doubt like “What if my parents never met?” If I did not collect, I quite simply would not be the same person I am now.

Another question that I often consider is “What if I did not collect Burroughs’s little magazine appearances?” This came to mind this week when I received my latest purchase in the mail: a program for an art exhibition involving David Budd, Earle Brown, and William Burroughs at the Galerie Stadler in Paris in 1964. I love these little programs and buy them when I get the chance. An interesting collection could be made by collecting Burroughs the artist rather than Burroughs the writer — or I should say “Burroughs the novelist,” since I consider cut-up texts such as Time, APO-33, and The Dead Star artist’s books and some of the finest examples of Burroughs’s talent as a visual artist.

If the Maynard and Miles bibliography was the blueprint for the foundations of my Burroughs little magazine collection, Robert Sobiezek’s Ports of Entry would be the guidebook for constructing an archive on Burroughs the artist. Besides the artist’s books mentioned above, such a collection would also acquire Burroughs’ later collaborations with Keith Haring, George Condo, and Robert Rauschenberg. The Third Mind material done with Brion Gysin has been institutionalized but until recently the raw material relating to Ah Pook by Malcolm Mc Neill was still available. Such material would be a centerpiece to a Burroughs-as-artist collection. Similarly, Joseph Zinnato, a major Burroughs collector, was able to get his hands on the proofs and drafts relating to the C Press edition of Time and make that material a cornerstone of his collection.

Of course there is the late period visual art from manila folder to the shotgun paintings. From what I can tell, much of this art is available to the collector. Patricia Elliott, friend and neighbor of Burroughs in Lawrence, had several pieces for sale just a few years ago. In connection with the visual art, there are also the ephemera associated with Burroughs’ gallery shows, like the one I just received relating to Galerie Stadler. I have a real soft spot for these programs. The Budd / Burroughs / Brown program is just plain cool visually. For the more ambitious, it might be worthwhile to collect all the reviews of these shows that appeared in art magazines or newspapers. Thus an archive could be gathered on the critical reception of Burroughs the artist.

Then we have Burroughs the art critic. Again there are some great ephemera with Burroughs’s small essays on Takis as well as some clunkers. A collector would have to lower his standards to pick up the horribly designed Paintings and Guns by Hanuman Books. Other collectors find these little gems cute. They are not for me although I find some of the texts to be fascinating.

Looking through my collection, I have the humble beginnings of a Burroughs as artist collection: Paintings and Guns, the Mimeo Revolution artist’s books, a handful of gallery catalogs. But this is a beginning that I will unfortunately not take to its conclusion (if a conclusion to a collection is ever possible), which is a shame because I think such a collection would be fun to compile and to research. Then it occurred to me to open a gallery on RealityStudio dedicated to Burroughs as artist. I am posting the bits and pieces that I have, but we at RealityStudio would love it if other collectors sent us images and write-ups of art-related pieces from their collections. For example, if you own a Burroughs painting, take a clear photograph of it and send it in with the background information on the piece as well as a short (or long) write-up. This could be as simple as how you acquired it, a personal impression about what the piece means to you, or a more formal piece of art criticism. If you have a program, scan it and send it to the site. The same goes for reviews of Burroughs’ art shows from newspapers and magazines. We are also posting a bibliography for what a Burroughs as Artist collection would look like. This is clearly a work in progress. If you have any edits and suggestions, please send them in.

Collecting like art is for everybody and the creation of this gallery provides an opportunity to get into the action.

Note: this material focuses on printed publications, not notebooks, sketchbooks, manuscripts, or paintings.

William Burroughs and the Arts

1961 Guy Harloff Exhibit

Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue, 1961, front

Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue
Galerie “La Cour d’Ingres”
1961


Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue, 1961, texts by Nanos Valaoritis and William Burroughs

Nanos Valaoritis and William Burroughs texts
Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue
Galerie “La Cour d’Ingres”
1961


Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue, 1961, back

Guy Harloff, Exhibition Catalogue
Galerie “La Cour d’Ingres”
1961


1962 Takis Exhibit

Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, front

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Front


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, Marcel Duchamp epigraph

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Marcel Duchamp epigraph


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, texts by Nicolas Callas and William Burroughs (Italian)

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Texts by Nicolas Callas and William Burroughs (Italian)


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, text by William Burroughs (Italian)

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Text by William Burroughs (Italian)


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, text by Brion Gysin (Italian)

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Text by Brion Gysin (Italian)


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, Takis sculpture

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Takis sculpture


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, text by Alain Jouffroy (Italian)

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Text by Alain Jouffroy (Italian)


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, biographical notice (Italian)

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Biographical notice (Italian)


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, French translation of texts

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
French translation of texts


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, English texts

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
English texts


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, Takis in studio

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Takis in studio


Takis catalogue, Galleria Schwarz, 1962, back

Takis, exhibition catalogue
Galleria Schwarz
1962
Back


1963 Towers Open Fire at ICA London

“On March 28th, 1963, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) on Dover Street, Bill, Ian, and Antony Balch presented an evening of cut-ups. Bill sat in a chair and stared at the audience, a powerful blue spotlight making it difficult to see him, while earsplitting cut-up tapes were played featuring distorted Moroccan flutes, pneumatic drills, radio static, fragments of radio broadcasts, and Bill’s own flat, dry voice reading texts and news reports. Stills from Towers Open Fire were projected on a screen above his head (they had intended to screen the film but it was not ready). The Evening Standard reported, “The club was filled to busting point with intrigued spectators even standing outside in the passage to catch one or two eerie twangs of Burroughs’ voice. I found him mysterious as ever. He sat with hands folded and a deadpan expression in front of a blue screen as his voice, sometimes crackling into a strange blend of humour and irony, came over a recording machine.” — Barry Miles, Call Me Burroughs

ICA Brochure, March 1963

Towers Open Fire
ICA London
1963


ICA Brochure, March 1963

Towers Open Fire
ICA London
1963


ICA Brochure, March 1963

Towers Open Fire
ICA London
1963


ICA Brochure, March 1963

Towers Open Fire
ICA London
1963


ICA Brochure, March 1963

Towers Open Fire
ICA London
1963


1963 Bizarre Magazine

bizarre magazine, 1963, cover

Bizarre Magazine
1963


william burroughs on guy harloff, bizarre magazine, 1963

William Burroughs
Untitled Text on Guy Harloff
Bizarre
1963


1964 David Budd Exhibit

david budd rencontre william burroughs et earle brown, exhibition catalogue, cover

David Budd rencontre William Burroughs et Earle Brown cover
Galerie Stadler
1964

Transcription and Translation of Catalogue


david budd rencontre william burroughs et earle brown, exhibition catalogue, front (english)



David Budd rencontre William Burroughs et Earle Brown front (English)
Galerie Stadler
1964

Transcription and Translation of Catalogue


david budd rencontre william burroughs et earle brown, exhibition catalogue, back (french)



David Budd rencontre William Burroughs et Earle Brown back (French)
Galerie Stadler
1964

Transcription and Translation of Catalogue


1967 Takis Exhibit

takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, cover

Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, list of works

Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, title page

Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, untitled text by william burroughs

William Burroughs
Untitled Text Dated “Paris 1960″
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, double signal

Takis
Double Signal
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, text by nicolas callas

Nicolas Callas
“Takis’ Magnetic Nowhere”
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, magnetic nowhere

Takis
Magnetic Nowhere
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, poem by gregory corso

Gregory Corso
“Purple Subway Ride”
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, three magnetic needles

Takis
Magnetic Needles
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, text by allen ginsberg

Allen Ginsberg
Untitled Text Dated “Bombay Apr 22, [19]62″
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, quavering mobile

Takis
Quavering Mobile
Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


takis, magnetic sculpture, exhibition catalogue, 1967, contributors

Takis, Magnetic Sculpture, exhibition catalogue
Galerie Stadler
1967


1969 Architectural Design Magazine

architectural design magazine, june 1969

Architectural Design
1969


william burroughs, untitled text in june 1969 architectural design magazine

William Burroughs
Untitled Text about 24 Peter Street, London
Architectural Design
1969


1988 Tony Shafrazi Gallery

william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988, cover

William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


william burroughs, entrance to the museum of lost species, william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988

William Burroughs
“Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species”
William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


william burroughs, entrance to the museum of lost species, william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988

William Burroughs
“Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species” (continued)
William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


william burroughs, entrance to the museum of lost species, william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988

William Burroughs
“Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species” (continued)
William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


william burroughs, entrance to the museum of lost species, william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988

William Burroughs
“Entrance to the Museum of Lost Species” (continued)
William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


william burroughs exhibit catalogue, tony shafrazi gallery, 1988, list of works

William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Tony Shafrazi Gallery
1988


1988 Burroughs Exhibit at October Gallery (London)

1988 October Gallery Catalogue

William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
October Gallery
1988


1988 Burroughs Exhibit at Klein Gallery (Chicago)

William Burroughs exhibit postcard, Klein Gallery, 1988

William Burroughs exhibit postcard
Klein Gallery
1988


1989 Burroughs Exhibit at Galerie Specht (Basel)

1989 Burroughs Exhibit at Galerie Specht

William Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Galerie Specht
1989


2005 Burroughs Exhibit at Riflemaker Gallery

burroughs exhibit catalogue, riflemaker gallery, 2005, front

Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Riflemaker Gallery
2005


burroughs exhibit catalogue, riflemaker gallery, 2005, burroughs shooting

Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Riflemaker Gallery
2005


burroughs exhibit catalogue, riflemaker gallery, 2005

Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Riflemaker Gallery
2005


burroughs exhibit catalogue, riflemaker gallery, 2005

Burroughs exhibit catalogue
Riflemaker Gallery
2005


Undated Postcard for Mrabet Exhibit at Gotham Book Mart

Undated Postcard (front) for Mrabet Exhibit at Gotham Book Mart

Undated Postcard for Mrabet Exhibit (front)
Gotham Book Mart
Anyone have the date?


Undated Postcard (back) for Mrabet Exhibit at Gotham Book Mart

Undated Postcard for Mrabet Exhibit (back)
Gotham Book Mart
Anyone have the date?


Written by Jed Birmingham and published by RealityStudio on 15 October 2012. See also the Bibliography of William S. Burroughs and the Arts. Thanks to BigCrux for additional images.
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Comments Total: 1
Roger Holden
Oct 20 2012
2:24 am

A wonderful project!

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