FINAL ACADEMY / 2012 at London's Horse Hospital
A Beat Generation happening, at the Horse Hospital, on a cold and rainy London night, was a great success, and the best William Burroughs event I've seen in London in the last fifteen years.
We arrived late to find unhappy would-be-Academicians disappearing into the rainy night, unable to gain admission to the sold-out soiree. Inside the wonderfully atmospheric Horse Hospital we could hear Philippe Petit and Eugene S. Robinson (Oxbow) setting a suitably literary tone for the night via their track, Last Of The Dead Hot Lovers.
Soon the stylish expectant audience settled down on seats, leaned against the back wall, or adopted convincing hippy-style cross-legged sutras at the foot of the stage. Event organizer Joe Ambrose took to the stage and spoke briefly about the fact that the original 1982 Final Academy - organised by Genesis P-Orridge - was a cultural intafada of immense relevance. He said his ambition, in organising tonight's show, was merely to salute that achievement.
Then he handed over the stage to the team behind the book, Academy 23 (WhollyBooks).There followed readings by contributors Paul Green and Ambrose himself, with performances also by artist Emma Doeve and Academy 23 Editor Matthew Levi Stevens.
Paul Green's contribution commented on the fact that this gathering was taking place on the anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also read Gerard Malanga's ode to Burroughs. Ambrose did an extract from a novel he's working on; this snippet concerning Jack Kerouac's arrival in Tangier Morocco in 1956 and his inspection of Bill Burroughs' room at the infamous Muniria Hotel, dubbed Delirium Hotel by WSB.
Scanner/Robin Rimbaud, Europe's leading electronic musicians and Tony White, a novelist to the forefront in the decommissioning of redundant literature, followed. Scanner gave an entirely appropriate reading of Jon Ronson's contribution to the 1982 Final Academy catalog while Tony White gave a tour-de-force rant from his novel Charlie Uncle Norfolk Tango.
The highlight of the evening was a screening of Raymond Salvatorte Harmon's work Language Virus (above) with nods in the direction of the Dreamachine and the Cut Ups with music by Philippe Petit. With Language Virus we're talking about the shape of words, the shape of letters, the abstract nature of language. After a short break which allowed us the time to browse the excellent selection of merchandise on the WhollyBooks stall, it was on to Liliane Lijn recollecting her friendships with Cut Up pioneers Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Sinclair Beiles in Paris in the early 60s and introducing two short movies documenting collaborations between herself and the words of Burroughs and Beiles.
The night - organised with near-Prussian efficiency - concluded with the groundbreaking movie Words of Advice, stuffed full of rare archival Burroughs-on-the-road footage of the old man doing book signings and coruscating readings. With a soundtrack supplied by Patti Smith, Bill Laswell, and Joe Ambrose's own band Islamic Diggers, Words of Advice seemed to be the ultimate hipster Beat Generation documentary.
Afterwards I managed to get a word with with Ambrose and he told me that tonight's festivities were the first in a series of themed nights which he hopes to do at the Horse Hospital. Beyond that he was tight lipped. He says all will be revealed in early December on www.joeambrose.info.
I like to look at things while listening to things I am not looking at. But doesn't everyone.