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William Burroughs: Preface to The Atrocity Exhibition

by William Burroughs (1970) The Atrocity Exhibition is a profound and disquieting book. The nonsexual roots of sexuality are explored with a surgeons precision. An auto-crash can be more more sexually stimulating than a pornographic picture. (Sur eys indicate that wet dreams in many cases ha e no o ert sexual content! whereas dreams with an o ert sexual content in many cases do not result in orgasm". The book opens# $A disquieting feature of this annual exhibition % was the marked preoccupation of the paintings with the theme of world cataclysm! as if these long-incarcerated patients had sensed some seismic uphea al within the minds of their doctors and nurses. The line between inner and outer landscapes is breaking down. &arthquakes can result from seismic uphea als within the human mind. The whole random uni erse of the industrial age is breaking down into cryptic fragments# $'n a waste lot of wrecked cars he found the burnt body of the white (ontiac! the nasal prepuce of )*+! crashed helicopters! &ichmann in drag! a dead child % The human body becomes landscape# $A hundred-footlong panel that seemed to represent a section of sand dune % looking at it more closely ,octor -athan reali.ed that it was an immensely magnified portion of the skin o er the iliac crest % This magnification of image to the point where it becomes unrecogni.able is a keynote of The Atrocity Exhibition. This is what *ob /auschenberg is doing in art 0 literally blowing up the image. Since people are made of image! this is literally an expensi e book. The human image explodes into rocks and stones and trees# $The porous rock towers of Tenerife exposed the first spinal landscape % clinker-like rock towers suspended abo e the silent swamp. 'n the mirror of this swamp there are no reflections. Time makes no concessions. Sexual arousal results from the repetition and impact of image# $&ach afternoon in the deserted cinema# the latent sexual content of automobile crashes % +ames ,ean! +ayne 1ansfield! Albert 2amus % 1any olunteers became con inced that the fatalities were still li ing and later used one or the other of the crash ictims as a pri ate focus of arousal during intercourse with the domestic partner. +ames ,ean kept a hangmans noose dangling in his li ing room and put it around his neck to pose for news pictures. A painter named 1ilton! who painted a sexy picture entitled $The ,eath of +ames ,ean! subsequently committed suicide. This book stirs sexual depths untouched by the hardest-core illustrated porn. $3hat will follow is the psychopathology of sex relationships so lunar and abstract that people will become mere

extensions of the geometries of situations. This will allow the exploration without any trace of guilt of e ery aspect of sexual psychopathology. 'mmensely magnified portion of +ames ,ean subsequently committed suicide. 2onception content relates to sexual depths of the hardest minds. &ichmann in drag in a waste lot of wrecked porous rock. 4 3illiam *urroughs! preface to The Atrocity Exhibition! 5678