Sunday, December 4, 2011

Burroughs, time / space and epistemic exploration

Let us begin where Burroughs begins in this excerpt: "In my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas," this explanation of writing seems to be the inverse of de Certeau's writing of Concept-city (Burroughs 304).

While de Certeau speaks of manifesting the tangible city from the conceptualization of a metropolis in the (minds of the) powers that be, Burroughs is discussing the brain as a metropolis in need of cartographers! Furthermore, Burroughs speaks of time as de Certeau speaks of the city as "a place of transformations and appropriations, the object of various kinds of interference but also a subject that is constantly enriched by new attributes, it is simultaneously the machinery and the her of modernity" (de Certeau 1345).

Burroughs writes, "To travel in space is to travel in time--If writers are to travel in space time and explore areas opened by the space age, I think they must develop techniques quite as new and definite as the techniques of physical space travel" (Burroughs 305). Burroughs does not seem to describe a tangible 'time/space-ship,' as it is implicit in his conversation that his headspace (personal episteme) and the art forms which make up his understanding of human experience equates to the physical apparatus necessary for this type of thought experimentation. This implied 'apparatus' (read city) of the brain (read city libraries and artworks manifested in reality by the brain) and the ideas that circulate the brain to make up understanding. By way of mapping his thought processes Burroughs' exploration as a cosmonaut parallels the 110 floors de Certeau must climb in order to find inspiration to comment upon the perspective shift experienced whilst moving from street level pedestrian to panoptic visionary. Watching from above the movements, constructions and designs of the Concept-city, text or though process.

Much like de Certeau speaks to the future of the Concept-city's development/decay as a part of time, Burroughs speaks to the future of writing, saying, "Certainly if writing is to have a future it must at least catch up with the past and learn to use techniques that have been used for some time past in painting, music and film--" (Burroughs 305). Here we see the intertextuality (intermodality/ekphrasis) necessitated by the various modes of expression--Burroughs seems to value the ability to express the 'inexpressible' by taking a technique outside of its medium of origin. By placing value in the displacement of a technique (subsequently the ability of an artist to 'cross the creative strings' and re-represent the technique in another medium) immediately after his discussion of time/space, Burroughs implicitly leads the reader to the next landmark in this banter--

space/time ship a la Burroughs--

"The fold in method extends to writing the flashback used in films, enabling the writer to move backward and forward on his time track--For example, I take page one and fold it into page one hundred--I insert the resulting composite as page ten--When the reader reads page ten he is flashing forward in time to page one hundred and back in time to page one--the deja vu phenomenon can so be produced to order--This method is of course used in music, where we are continually moved backward and forward on the time track by repetition and rearrangements of musical themes--" (Burroughs 305).

The fold-in technique stands as an interesting concept when viewed through the lense(s) of 'critical theory as a historic conversation' and the 'origin of idea' inherent to the copyright system as shown in GoodCopy/BadCopy. I say this because by simply combining two texts with an utter disregard (simultaneously esteemed respect) for their placement in time/space history as one displaces/reaffirms the entire notion of the 'episteme' as an entire set of understanding existing at a given moment in a culture (the start of one episteme signaling the end of another). If we, today, have access to all of this great thought (text/art/oratory/music) outside of its original episteme, how can anyone feign to claim the knowledge with the label of their sixty or a hundred years of life and ideas?

I believe a timeless/egoless place to be the source of Burrough's described 'deja vu,' believing it to be the same as T.S. Eliot's 'still point in the turning world' (read 'present moment') as is written of the eternally present now in Burnt Norton (the first of the Four Quartets).

Eliot writes:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time. (Part 2 B.N.)

(eliot explains the 'still point' as 'where the light is' --- )

To Burroughs, the deja-vu of applying this method to 'Rimbaud folded into a page of St. John Perse,' breaks time by bringing both texts (separate episteme) into the present moment (present episteme) allowing the present moment to bear fruits of time/space-synthesis. This synthesis timless and therefore can be politely slipped in to any point of a narrative, all points always pointing back to the present.

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