In the late 50 s the Beat movement reached its high point, with Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs sharing rooms in a rundown hotel near the Seine. James Campbell visits a new exhibition at the Pompidou Centre and a pivotal moment in cultural history
If you want to read Jack Kerouacs fiction On the Road in its original scroll sort this summer, the place to go to is the Beat Generation exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. It will require more than one visit the 36.6 m scroll is exhibited in its entire length across the central room, like the Bayeux Tapestry but while you are there you can also watch Robert Franks 30 -minute film Pull My Daisy ( 1959 ), with Kerouacs voiceover, scrutinise the heavily rewritten typescript of Allen Ginsbergs lyric Howl, dance to Harry Smiths experimental jazz films and relish the sight of numerous rare publications under glass, such as Gary Snyders Six Sections from Mountains and Rivers Without End and issues of the publications Big Table and Kulchur.
Paris has acquired the habit of mounting major exhibitions on literary topics Jean-Paul Sartre and Boris Vian have been at the Bibliothque Nationale in recent years, Jean Cocteauand Roland Barthes at the Pompidou but why the Beats, and why now? The notion is to demonstrate these liberties, which were fought for then, and which are in danger of disappearing, says Philippe-Alain Michaud who has curated the depict with assistance from the poet Jean-Jacques Lebel, translator of several Beat works into French, and Rani Singh of the Getty Research Institute. Michaud isnt disposed to attain the case for a resurgence of interest, since France never paid much attention to Beat writing in the first place. We wanted to show the multimedia nature of the movement not just writing but painting and film as well and how the idea of travel was central to it.