By Seth Brigham
With camera in hand, I thought I’d try to capture the essence of this literary event sponsored by Naropa University, which took place at venues throughout Boulder. It would be the last gathering of the first generation of “beat writers.” I felt compelled to document this event, unaware of my own condition, an increasing mania.
I have the condition known as Bipolar Manic Depression. I was on A Manic Roll…
Symptoms that characterize a manic episode, according to the American Psychiatric and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, are inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, decreased need for sleep, excessive talkativeness, racing thoughts or ideas, distractibility, increased goal-oriented activity, and intense involvement in pleasurable activities, which may have high risk or painful consequences.
I plead no contest.
My waking consciousness had a dreamlike quality, as though I were in the center of an all-important movie. I became grandiose beyond the reality of my own creativity, unleashing egoistic impulses on friends, patrons and performers, often invading their personal space. Due to my uninhibited and erratic behavior, at times, I was met with opposition from staff and faculty at Naropa. This only fed my frenzy and I continued on, following the immediate path of my disordered thoughts, taking photos with an animal like drive.
These photographs are not meant to be representative of the “tribute” as a whole, but the debris salvaged from a manic shipwreck, the shattering of many of my delusions.
These photographs were taken in Boulder, at a once-in-a-lifetime major literary and cultural event, “BEATS AND OTHER REBEL ANGELS; A TRIBUTE TO ALLEN GINSBERG.” This event took place from 2 July through 10 July, 1994, and would be the last and largest gathering of many of the original, first generation “Beats.” Many of the major participants are now dead and gone.
Panels, lectures, performances, films, and parties, took place all over Boulder, at the Boulder Public Library, Boulder High School, Naropa, the Boulder Theater and the Fox.
My style was spontaneous, first thought, best thought. The photographs reflect that. This was the artistic theory of Allen Ginsberg and other noted “Beats.”
I call this photographic essay, “THE BEAT GOES ON,” in a celebration of the artist, especially, my father, Donald L. Brigham. My father was an art philosopher and educator. He was a peer of Allen Ginsberg’s and a great artist and thinker, educator, writer, photographer, painter and “beat,” before they coined the name describing this “movement.”
“Doc,” as his family and friends liked to call him, was the first to implement an Interdisciplinary form of education, in the mid-60s, in the public schools, using all curriculum in combination with one another, based primarily on the arts. He was a Fulbright scholar who got his Masters in the Arts at the University Of Colorado and a Doctorate in the Philosophy of Art Education at Boston University. He taught and administered for more than 30 years, primarily in the public schools, despite having the qualifications to rise higher in academia and, perhaps, become famous like other artists of his time.
He was an original Beat, who never tried to become known but lived his life on the square, brought up a family of five children with my mother, Dorothy “Dot” Brigham, an artist in her own right. She worked in ceramics in all different forms and styles.
As for me, my artistic experience is to develop a sensory literacy, using all forms and disciplines. In 1994, I thought I’d witness and “capture” this important literary event, “Beats And Other…” with camera in hand. I was in the midst of a “manic episode,” which eventually led to a psychotic break from reality. I think my “condition,” Bipolar/Manic Depression, is integral in regard to my art. I think these photos show my own unique, individualistic touch, reflecting my own experience.
Every picture marries a moment.
While taking these pictures I became grandiose beyond the reality of my own creativity. I was like some kind of Beat Reporter in a mad frenzy to capture the essence of these “Beats and other Rebel Angels.” Seeing these people and events, through my camera’s eye, the “state” I was in, seems fitting for the subject matter, “The Beat Generation,” who had engaged in open rebellion against the status quo and served as a model for generations to come, from the hippies of the 60s, to the punks of the 70s to the “slacker” and “grunge” subcultures of the 80s and 90s.
Allen Ginsberg, and other Beats, their style of writing, photography and “other” art, is mostly impromptu, automatic, first thought, best thought, in the moment. Allen himself said, “using the raw material of your own actual experience in your work, whether it fits accepted aesthetics or not…It’s the appreciation of the poignancy of the passing moment that we all share, but arrive at by quite different roads.”
The Beat Generation was a collection of writers, artists, and social activists who supported each other’s work through friendship with one another. Their main themes were inclusiveness, tolerance, compassion, and having the courage to live your own individual truth.
I hope this photographic essay of the last gathering of many of the well-known “Beats And Other Rebel Angels” shows the spirit of the Beat Generation along with the themes they embodied.
Perhaps, it was all a myth driven by the celebrity of a few. There are many from that time in space that never were recognized nor tried to be.
I met many participants during the “Tribute To Allen Ginsberg” and I found them to be no more than human, sometimes, it seemed, less than, no better than you or me. The point of my efforts is to encourage people, especially young people, to use their gifts, to help keep alive, continue, and bring about a spirit and an attitude that one person can make a difference.
These photographs are a small chapter, like an ending to a long novel, a gathering to celebrate a group of artists, who, together, seemed to have made a difference in the lives of others.
I encourage you to get on a road that leads to where your passions might be.
“Everything belongs to me because I am poor.” (Jack Kerouac)
“How many hypocrites are there in America? How many trembling lambs, fearful of discovery? What authority have we set up over ourselves that we are not as we are? Who shall prohibit an art form from being published to the world? What conspirators have power to determine our mode of consciousness, our sexual enjoyments, our different labors and our loves? What fiends determine our wars?
When will we discover an America that will not deny its own God? Who take up arms, money, police, and a million hands to murder the consciousness of God? Who spits in the beautiful face of Poetry, which sings of the Glory of God and weeps in the dust of the world?” (“Poetry, Violence, and the Trembling Lambs or Independence Day Manifesto” – Allen Ginsberg)
4 July, 2005, the day my father died, three days before his 80th Birthday.
I love you dad. I miss you.
Seth Brigham is Creative Director at Notes From The Quiet Room. He is a writer, photographer, videographer, archivist, and all around a decent human being. Seth is a former salesman at Parking lots of Grateful Dead tours. He has a degree in Creative Writing and Elementary Education from the University of Colorado Boulder. He lived in Boulder, Colorado from 1983-2012. Currently, he lives in Providence, RI. Links to Facebook Personal Page and Facebook Arts Page. Seth tweets at: @dapatient
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘The Beat and the Hungry generation: When losing became hip’, edited by Goirick Brahmachari, poet & Abhimanyu Kumar, poet/journalist, New Delhi, India.