Dead Fingers Talk

Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs

Alma/Joe Ambrose | Steve Aylett | Alex Baker & Kit Poulson | William S. Burroughs | Lawrence English

The Human Separation | Riccardo Iacono | Anthony Joseph | Cathy Lane | Eduardo Navas | Negativland | o.blaat

Aki Onda | Jörg Piringer | Plastique Fantastique | Simon Reuben White | Giorgio Sadotti | Scanner | Terre Thaemlitz

Thomson & Craighead | Laureana Toledo | Ultra-red

 

IMT Gallery, London

28th May – 18th July 2010

Curated by Mark Jackson

 

Dead Fingers Talk was an exhibition presenting two unreleased tape experiments by William Burroughs from the mid 1960s alongside responses by 23 artists, musicians, writers, composers and curators.

Few writers have exerted as great an influence over such a diverse range of art forms as William Burroughs. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and Junky, continues to be regularly referenced in music, visual art, sound art, film, web-based practice and literature. One typically overlooked, yet critically important, manifestation of his radical ideas about manipulation, technology and society is found in his extensive experiments with tape recorders in the 1960s and ’70s. Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs was the first exhibition to truly demonstrate the diversity of resonance in the arts of Burroughs’ theories of sound.

listen to your present time tapes and you will begin to see who you are and what you are doing here mix yesterday in with today and hear tomorrow your future rising out of old recordings

 

everybody splice himself in with everybody else

Inspired by the expelled Surrealist painter Brion Gysin, and yet never meant as art but as a pseudo-scientific investigation of sounds and our relationship to technology and material, the experiments provide early examples of interactions which are essential listening for artists working in the digital age.

In the case of the work in the exhibition the contributors were asked to provide a “recording” in response to Burroughs’ tape experiments. The works, which varied significantly in media and focus, demonstrated the diversity of attitudes to such a groundbreaking period of investigation.

The exhibition incorporated a programme of events including:

Dead Fingers Talk Live, a performance evening on the 18 July with performance works by Ascsoms, Joel Cahen and Solina Hi-Fi, inspired by the cut-up experiments of William S. Burroughs and the exhibition Dead Fingers Talk.

Words of Advice – William S. Burroughs on the Road, a screening on the 31st July of Words of Advice a documentary directed by Lars Movin and Steen Møller Rasmussen including never-before-seen footage of Burroughs’ visit to Denmark in 1983, and his later years in Kansas.

Dead Fingers Talk: The Tape Experiments of William S. Burroughs was supported by the London College of Communication, CRiSAP and ADi Audiovisual and was made possible by the kind assistance of Riflemaker, the British Library and Donlon Books.

Following on from the exhibition, work from Dead Fingers Talk was also exhibited as part of Be Glad For The Song Has No End at the Wysing Arts Centre on 11th September 2010, supported by Arts Council England East, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, The Wire and Resonance 104.4FM, and as Dead Fingers Talk 2012 at Galleri Box, Göteborg in 2012.

PRESS (selected):

 

Art Monthly - Cherry Smyth, jul-aug-2010 (print)

 

The Wire - Daniel Spicer, Issue 315 May 2010 (print)

 

Dazed Digital - online

Dead Fingers Talk 2012: The Mayan Caper

Galleri Box

28th April - 27th May 2012

Dead Fingers Talk 2012 – The Mayan Caper is a series of sound art works and experiments by artists, musicians, writers, composers and curators inspired by the work of William Burroughs.

Few writers have exerted as great an influence over such a diverse range of art forms as William Burroughs. Burroughs, author of Naked Lunch, The Soft Machine and Junky, continues to be regularly referenced in music, visual art, sound art, film, web-based practice and literature. One typically overlooked, yet critically important, manifestation of his radical ideas about manipulation, technology and society is found in his extensive experiments with tape recorders in the 1960s and ’70s.

In 2010’s Dead Fingers Talk at IMT Gallery, London, contributors were asked to provide a “recording” in response to Burroughs’ tape experiments. Following on from this Dead Fingers Talk 2012 – The Mayan Caper at Galleri Box revisits some of these diverse works alongside what Burroughs called ‘Playback’ recordings: parapsychic manipulations of time and space that he believed would have definite, sometimes disastrous, effects.

Burroughs’ described his use of the texts and recordings of others as “closer to the facts of perception” than traditional artistic activity, which make his ideas especially relevant today amidst heated discussions on the copyright and reuse of audiovisual culture.

Inspired by the painter Brion Gysin, and yet never meant as art but as a pseudo-scientific investigation of sounds and our relationship to technology and material, Burroughs’ tape experiments provided early examples of interactions essential for artists working in the digital age. This new exhibition demonstrates the diversity of attitudes to such a groundbreaking period of investigation.

Dead Fingers Talk 2012 – The Mayan Caper includes work by Alma/Joe Ambrose, Steve Aylett, William S. Burroughs and Ian Sommerville, Anthony Joseph, Cathy Lane, Eduardo Navas, Simon Reuben White, Giorgio Sadotti, Scanner, Terre Thaemlitz, Laureana Toledo and Ultra-red, with ‘Playback’ recordings by Alex Baker, Leslie Deere, Phillip Drummond, Lizzie Hughes, Mark Jackson, Duncan McAfee, Charlotte Norwood and Settimio Palermo.

Curated by Mark Jackson for Galleri Box.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with IMT Gallery, London where Mark Jackson is curator as well as independently. He specialises in sound, audiovisual and inter-disciplinary practices.