Liam OGallagher: Chinatown Trip
In 2008, I began work on the book that would ultimately become Every Exit is an Entry: The Life and Work of Liam OGallagher. In researching the book, his life-partner Bob Rheem supplied me with Liam OGallagher's archives - boxes of notebooks, photographs, works of art, correspondence, documents and ephemera - all the evidence of a long and full life. Among the archives were audiotapes and reels of 16mm film, which were set aside as I focused on the materials that would be included in the book.
A year and a half later, the book completed, I turned my attention to the exhibition at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, which would coincide with the book's publication. Liam had abandoned painting during the 60s and 70s, turning his attention to new media, including sound and video. I felt that an exhibition of Liam's work that focused solely on his paintings was incomplete, and began to explore the reels of audiotape and film. Among these items was a box containing a 16mm film reel, identified on the outside as Liam painting - filmed by Michael McClure. I certainly knew the name. I'd been a fan of McClure's work for decades and was quite excited when Id been informed that he wanted to write a short piece for the book. I asked Bob about the film.
"Oh, that's the film of Liam taking psilocybin," Bob answered, in his nonchalant manner. "Michael came over to document the experience on film."
I was aware that Liam had taken psilocybin once in 1962. As with his experience with LSD in 1960 (with Laura Huxley as his guide) he had carefully recorded the experience both his impressions and how his experience of the world was transformed in light of it. I hadn't realized that the footage of the experience existed however and I rushed to a local lab, to have it transferred to digital footage. What I found was exciting. There were several minutes of footage without sound, featuring Liam as a younger man (when I met him he was in his late 80s), in the Chinatown loft he shared with Bob.
I knew that I wanted to include the footage in the exhibition, which was at that point two weeks away. I had also had the audio tracks converted to digital and decided to use one of the pieces that Liam had recorded, titled Science Fiction. The film and audio fit perfectly and, now that they are joined together, I can't imagine them separately. It was still lacking something, however, some sort of soundtrack, though there was very little music that would fit the mood of the film. A few years earlier, Liam and Bob had helped to bring the Austrian composer Hans-Joachim Roedelius to the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, to create a commissioned work and perform. During this visit, the composer had left me a number of ambient audio tracks, for me to use in future projects. I found the ideal piece among them. Two days before the exhibition opened, I mastered the final film of Liam on psilocybin, titled Chinatown Trip at Bob's suggestion. It was presented at the Opening Reception and those who had known Liam gathered around the television, as if seeing a long lost friend again. Indeed, having the film running throughout the exhibition brought Liams spirit into the space as nothing else could have.
And I had the good fortune of, not only having Michael McClure contribute a text to a book I wrote, but to collaborate with him on a film project.
Kevin Wallace, Director
Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts