Photography in a war universe: control answers

Coley, Rob and Lockwood, Dean (2014) Photography in a war universe: control answers. In: Beyond the Cut-Up: William S Burroughs and the Image, 15th February, 2014, The Photographer's Gallery, London.

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Q. Whose photographs were more influential than those of Eadward Muybridge?
A. Control’s.
In 1968, Burroughs discovered the existence of two Nova Agents, ex-IBM employees resident on
Fulham Road, SW10, who claimed to have established a computer link with Control (ostensibly on
Venus) and offered a means to put questions to Control for a fee of twelve shillings per question.
Burroughs took immediate advantage of the offer, sending as many questions as he could afford,
usually receiving his answers within a 48 hour period. As we have ascertained, at great cost, this
line of communication is still open, deep in dark address space. The Society for Ontofabulatory
Research, represented here by Coley and Lockwood, engaged in the Q and A from which we here

Q. How would you describe the present situation?
A. A War Universe. An image-prison. Nothing has changed since the responses Mr. Burroughs
Q. What role does photography play today in this image-prison?
A. It’s the old Army game, subvert from within, get your adversary addicted to your vectors.
Q. How’s that?
A. Decades ago, Mr. Martin, the Man of a Thousand Lies, already divulged that ‘the entire human
film is prerecorded’. Pre-emptive control functions through virus negatives, the affective power of
pre-personal images seeded within human bodies, set to develop at a given time and
desingularize the subject. Circumscription of perception.
Q. Yes, we’re still at war with the autonomic scanning patterns of so-called ‘reality’,
attentional association lines operating on the basis of compulsive preoccupations. But
where is the front line today?
A. Neither science nor religion, but magic. In the middle of a battlefield of magical reality. The
subtle ‘push or pull’ which exploits the immanent potential of the future, a constellation of
Q. Does photography offer any weapons, any chance, for us?
A. Yes
Q. What is the nature of these weapons?
A. The camera is a scrambling device which confronts magic on its own terms. It expresses the
power of time travel, the attunement of the present to zones of futurity.
Q. Can you be more specific?
A. Paraphotographic synchronicity – say, organized and conducted on the street, in walking
practices – processes recognition patterns into transformative encounters.
Q. The very same that Burroughs called ‘intersection pictures’?
A. Yes. Maps. New pre-recordings of a people to come. You should now be in a better position to
understand these processes.
Q. Give us a clue?
A. Experiments with the weed-like properties of pictures, ‘image vines’ moving transversally,
spreading virally and terroristically from small-scale experiments to weird global media events
exposing vectoral space. Only then can you create ‘new worlds, new beings, new modes of
consciousness’, as Burroughs said.
Q. Will these forces of photography succeed in resingularizing subjectivity?
A. Question held pending signal clearance.
Why does Control answer these questions at all? It hardly seems in its own interests. Yet, as
Burroughs knew, ‘Control’ is never 100% Control. It’s the principle of constructive instability – it
jeopardizes itself in order to extend itself, to keep the ball in play. As Mr Martin once said, ‘I have
ways of dealing with wise guys or I wouldn’t be here’.

Keywords:Photography, william s burroughs, cut up, muybridge, decisive moment
Subjects:P Mass Communications and Documentation > P300 Media studies
Divisions:College of Arts > Lincoln School of Film & Media > Lincoln School of Film & Media (Media)
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ID Code:13355
Deposited On:17 Feb 2014 14:50

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