This weekend I checked out the Brion Gysin retrospective at New Museum. I was pretty excited to see what Dream Machine was all about for myself, so I ran all the way up to the exhibit floor, past all the fancy stuff on the walls and inside the cases and found the small darkened room that is home to the cylindrical Dream Machine. A group of people sat in a semi circle around the flickering light caused by the rotation of a cylinder with holes cut into that acts as a shade to a singular lightbulb. I turned on my New Museum provided Ipod Nano loaded with the Moroccan music of the Joujouka brotherhood recommended by Gysin, sat down, and closed my eyes.
Though my eyes were closed there was an immense amount of activity occurring behind my twitching eyelids. It was as if they wanted to open themselves up again and not stare towards the depths of my imagination but back at the light source. The music immediately brought me back to my recent trip to the Saharan desert, and the blackness of my blind state became the night sky filled with stars and mystery.
The transformative power of art is of course poetic in nature, but does it ever push past the simulacra? I like to think that everyone is an artist, only some of us forget. As artists and the non-artists who are blind to their power of creation, what is it that we are seeking to create if even the ‘original’ artwork is still only an inferior attempt of a copy. Why is a Dream Machine, necessary to sit down and dream? Furthermore, why are old white male artists making work dealing with white identity still getting solo shows and the very mention of self by artists of color immediately considered to be cliche?
These are questions I ask myself now. As I sat in front of Dream Machine with lids shut tight my mind was empty. Emptiness in the sense I knew these questions didn’t matter. I opened my eyes, and I left.
Brion Gysin: Dream Machine is open at the New Museum until October 3rd, 2010.