The Art Department

When Young Sutherland asked me to procure him a commission with the nova police, I jokingly answered: “Bring in Winkhorst, technician and chemist for The Lazarus Pharmaceutical Company, and we will discuss the matter.”

“Is this Winkhorst a nova criminal?”

“No just a technical sergeant wanted for interrogation.”

I was thinking of course that he knew nothing of the methods by which such people are brought in for interrogation – It is a precision operation – First we send out a series of agents – (usually in the guise of journalists) – to contact Winkhorst and expose him to a battery of stimulus units – The contact agents talk and record the response on all levels to the word units while a photographer takes pictures  – This material is passed along to The Art Department – Writers write “Winkhorst,” painters paint “Winkhorst,” a method actor becomes “Winkhorst,” and then “Winkhorst” will answer our questions – The processing of Winkhorst was already under way –

William Burroughs, Nova Express from “Chinese Laundry”

In a 1965 interview, Burroughs speaks of the Luce media as “a control system.  It has nothing to do with reporting.  Life/Time/Fortune is some sort of police organisation.”

The self has become the object of our own journalism.

The State must realise the distinction between the legislator and the subject under formal conditions permitting thought, for its part, to conceptualise their identity.  Always obey.  The more you obey, the more you will be master, for you will only be obeying pure reason, in other words yourself…

Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus from “1227: Treatise on Nomadology – the War Machine”

“Melted a categorical no mercy for this enemy as dust and smoke sir…”  Agents for our own self-destruction, writers post their thoughts and feelings upon the Facebook/MySpace/Twitter organisations.  I am emale.  The processing of Ecko4inc is already under way.

Photo falling.  Word falling.

Nova Express is an attempt to destroy those word associations – those “lines of oxygen” – tying the free individual to the parasitic existence: Word.  “Survive! Is the name of the game.  What do I give a shit about these people?” Love and sex, for example, the algebra of need.  What men and women are driven to in the pursuit of “love.”  “Greg Ingliss” is being written, processing.  Control.  Image.  Word.

Burroughs upstages the notion of man’s immortal soul by writing himself into Nova Express as William Lee, Nova Inspector.  Plato himself was absent in the story when he wrote “Socrates” in Phaedo (Plato was ill – the story is a second-hand account of Socrates’ final hours), a dialogue concerned with the divine immortality of the human soul.

As Flaceliere wrote in his Daily Life in Greece, the Greeks did not really have any reasoned moral or ethical concepts of Goodness or Justice before Socrates or Plato.  Homer’s stories were the gospel of good living for the Greeks.  Life was a performance.  A Greek would not silently read by himself – he would read aloud or have a slave read for him.

The arts of existence were a collective process.  Even the Eleusinian mysteries did not prescribe any kind of way to live one’s life.  Life was simple.  Notions of good and evil were matters of honour, between the tribe and the individual.  The “soul” animated life.  Not only the humans but the seasons, the trees and the animals, all of life’s rich variety.  For higher forms of existence – life after death, for example – the Greeks had the comedy and tragedy of Attic drama.  Avoid hubris.  Life was tragic.  Better not to exist at all than to suffer and to fight.

Once Socrates introduced the algebra of need, the prescriptions came thick and fast.  He decided he didn’t have to take anyone’s word at face-value but the value of life could be tested, minted currency, counterfeit coinage, agenbite of inwit, the bite of a private conscience.

Make up your own mind.  Start your own Art Department.  Make up your own ideal society.  “Socrates” wasn’t looking for consensus – the Republic is a thought experiment (with a silent appeal to the political constituency, those who want to control the meaning of justice).  Plato raised the use of reason to a new level in recording his thoughts and opened up the critical faculty of reasoning.

An acute ability of Burroughs was to see the relations of power in systems of control.  Well-versed in firearms and techniques of self-defence (poisons, knives), Burroughs had no delusions about the relations of forces.  Shoot for freedom, kid. He was trying to give others a fighting chance before the whole planet blows up and goes nova:

At any given time position of recorders fixes nature of absolute need – And dictates the use of total weapons – So leave the recorders running and get your heavy metal ass in a space ship – Did it – Nothing here now but the recordings – Shut the whole thing right off – Silence – When you answer the machine you provide it with more recordings to be played back to your “enemies” keep the whole nova machine running –

William Burroughs, Nova Express, from “Pay Colour: Clom Friday”

Caught between an apology for immoral acts committed and an accusation of the hypocrisy of the powers-that-be, that mistake “beingness” for “havingness,” William Burroughs wises up the marks.  Willy the Heavy Metal Kid.  Also known as Willy the Rat.  Also known as Inspector Lee of the Nova Police.

The great god Pan lives on in writing, in painting and in music.


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