reevaluation of post-War artistic phenom
BRION GYSIN DREAM MACHINE by Laura Hoptman, with contributions by John Geiger et al. Merrell/New Museum, 2010. 198 pages. $39.95 hardcover, 8" x 9" ISBN 978-1-8589-4521-7 color illustrations, photographs, bibliography, notes, index.
The Dreammachine is the name Gysin gave to a stroboscopic device made by the mathematician and psychological experimenter Ian Sommerville to which the artist Gysin added calligraphic painting in an attempt to replicate a spontaneous hallucination he had while riding on a bus along an avenue of trees near an artist's colony in the south of France. Gysin (d. 1986) was most active in France. He left most of his art works to the city of Paris. He nonetheless became associated with American avant-garde and Beat writers and artists such as William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac when he spent time with them during their stay in Paris in the 1950s at a residence which became known as the "Beat Hotel." Gysin was a kindred spirit with anyone seeking to break out of the mold of conformity by exploring novel artistic, psychic, and spiritual paths.
Rather than developing an identity around any particular art form, Gysin engaged continually with many. "Working simultaneously with painting, drawing, collage, sound, literature, performance, and something more ineffable that might be called 'perception,' he created an oeuvre that was radically interdisciplinary, virally influential, and wildly uneven." For this he has been called an "idea machine". Rather than refining a particular style within an art form or pursuing a particular artistic path for what spiritual, emotive, etc., answers or comforts it could yield, Dysin instead practiced nearly every emerging art form and departure from the tried of the post-War era with an energy, imagination, and often an abandon which brought out their possibilities and potentials. Dysin was as influential as much as he was skilled in the various new forms of art and new paths for artists.
Laura Hoptman, curator of the Gysin exhibition at the New Museum and the books editor, sagely observes that it can be argued that by being largely ignored in the art community of his day and remaining "uncategorized," Gysin's unconventional, seminal work was preserved in such a way to allow it now to be seen "as a holistic series of fascinating experiments that expand beyond the typical visual-arts discourse." Gysin was a precursor of postmodernism. Ones attuned to today's culture and art take in Gysin's energetic, usually colorful, and multifarious art works readily. His oeuvre is like a big collage.