William S. Burroughs (1914 – 1997), an icon of the American Beat Generation, has fascinated the public mainly because of his image as an excessive writer addicted to drugs who inadvertently shot his wife in a bizarre William Tell act. Admired as a revolutionary and homosexual intellectual and criticized for his enthusiasm for firearms, he established a new form of writing: the cut-up method. Text fragments are intuitively strung together to form open associative narrative structures in order to expand the boundaries of language and describe human consciousness. The visionary author talked about the “Electronic Revolution” as early as 1970. He influenced countercultures from the acid scene to punk and achieved late popularity in the young New York art world of the 1980s.
Assembling Burroughs’s legendary shotgun paintings and cut-ups in such different media as text-image collages, photo montages, and tape experiments, the exhibition highlights the cross-over character of his oeuvre, which has influenced wide areas of pop culture, music, and techniques of digital sampling. Beyond that, the show presents itself as the portrait of a great author who was the inspiring personality for the Beats with their freethinking redefinition of the American way of life.