Sensationalism Film Review: Flicker - The Dream machine and the revolution in human consciousness


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Who Invented The Cut-up?

In Flicker, interviewees Marianne Faithfull and Iggy Pop as well as director Nik Sheehan all identify Brion Gysin as the "inventor" or "discoverer" of the cut-up technique. While it may be true that Gysin's close relationship and work with William S. Burroughs was the source of inspiration which led to the popularization of cut-up as a writing technique, there is evidence that text randomization is a creative process which has been used by artists and writers throughout the history of European culture (including dada poet Tristan Tzara and William Shakespeare).
Flicker Written and directed by Nik Sheehan

The story of Brion Gysin: credited by many to have discovered the cut-up technique, and inventor of the Dream Machine. The dream machine is basically a cylinder with holes which rotates around a light bulb to produce a hypnotic flickering pattern on the closed eyelids of observers. This flickering triggers alpha waves in the brain (a level of activation found in the dream state). The dream state, when induced while the subject is conscious is a state of consciousness more commonly associated with hallucinogenic drugs. The dream machine, therefore, is a "drugless high". Does it work? Flicker's director Nik Sheehan claims to have hallucinated a flock of angels materializing out of nowhere.

The dream machine was only one of the variety of tools used by Gysin to "unlock the possibilities of the human brain". The dream machine, according to Gysin, is a "provoked accident" while the cut-up technique is an "accidental interruption". Iggy Pop is interviewed in the film and relates having met Gysin and describes his understanding of the value of these accidental strategies:

"Basically, if you can find a way to stop tending the structure (the building) and just let the mice in, something much more... something nice is going to happen."

Flicker is full of interviews with writers, poets and musicians who have either met Gysin or have been influenced by Gysin's writing, artwork or other creations, but as Genesis P. Orridge explains:

"Brion was ultimately a way of perceiving the world - he was trying to teach people to see differently".