The Final Academy

"William Burroughs’ reading in the city of Manchester took place on the 4th of October, 1982, at Factory Records’ Haçienda club, as part of the Manchester “edition” of The Final Academy, a Burroughs-themed art event put together by Psychic TV (Genesis P Orridge & Peter Christopherson) and others. I’ve always been grateful that a record was made of this event, however poor, since I was in the audience that evening, very conscious of the fact that this was my one and only opportunity to see Burroughs in the flesh. His appearance was the magical part of a scaled-down version of the larger two-day Final Academy that had taken place earlier that week in London. The rest of the event was either strange or underwhelming, not helped by the chilly and elitist atmosphere of Manchester’s newest and most famous club. In the days before “Madchester” and the rave scene (the period that gets excised from the city’s cultural history), the Haçienda was a cold, grey concrete barn with terrible acoustics and a members-only policy that required the flourishing of a Peter Saville-designed membership card at the door. The place was usually half-empty and the clientèle tended to be students living nearby. (...)

Burroughs’ presence that evening at least managed to fill out the space, even if a large portion of the audience didn’t seem to know why they were there or what the whole thing was about. Some of the films made by Burroughs’ collaborator Antony Balch (Towers Open Fire, The Cut-Ups) were shown on the club’s big projection screens then John Giorno took to the stage to give a spirited (and funny) presentation of his performance poetry. I hadn’t heard of Giorno before, or his Giorno Poetry Systems, which had been putting readings by Burroughs and others on record, but he was very entertaining.

Burroughs followed, reading from The Place of Dead Roads and The Western Lands. It later became apparent that this was part of an ongoing scheme by his manager, James Grauerholz, to get the aged writer in front of audiences and earning some much-needed money. Whatever money he made was well-earned since few writers can deliver their work in public with as much style and wit, as the numerous recordings of his later readings testify. I’m not sure now what I expected from his reading but I remember being surprised at the degree of humour involved. What might seem cold and dead on the page came to life dripping with satiric vitriol under the stress of that snarling delivery. (...)

The Final Academy was a defining moment in what, for want of a better term, is now seen as the Industrial Culture scene, Burroughs having been adopted as godfather by most of the prime movers in that movement-that-wasn’t-quite-a-movement. Psychic TV grew out of Throbbing Gristle, of course, and one of the last releases on TG’s Industrial Records label was Nothing Here Now but the Recordings, a collection of Burroughs’ early tape experiments. 23 Skidoo sampled (in the days before sampling”¦) a snatch of those recordings for The Gospel Comes to New Guinea, a single produced by Cabaret Voltaire, and both these bands played at the London event. At the time this meeting of literary and avant garde musical culture didn’t seem so surprising but 24 years on it seems increasingly unique and unrepeatable."

"Psychic TV made its debut in 1982 at an event organized by P-Orridge, David Dawson, and Roger Ely, called The Final Academy. It was a 4-day multimedia celebratory rally held in Manchester and at the Ritzy Cinema in BrixtonSouth London. It brought performers and audience together with literature, performance, film and music. PTV, Cabaret Voltaire, 23 Skidoo, Z'ev, John Giorno, William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin, Terry Wilson, Jeff Nuttall, and The Last Few Days participated to honor the cut-up techniques and theories of William S. Burroughs, Ian Sommerville, Anthony Balch and Gysin. Video projection and early sampling were used here, as well as whispered utterances by P-Orridge reprocessed as a soundtrack to Gysin's Dreammachine by the Hafler Trio."

Sources: link) link)

Contributors to this page: 1.0 .
Page last modified on Monday 10 of December, 2007 01:51:54 CET by 1.0.