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The Art of The Cut-Up

edited November 2006 in Art/Culture
The Father of beatnik, William Burroughs, devised a technique by which one's writing may be cleansed of its cultural and semantic bias. This technique has since been known as The Cut-Up. As Burroughs himself commented: William Burroughs in the process of cut-up
All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read, heard, overheard. What else? Use of scissors renders the process explicit and subject to extension and variation. Clear classical prose can be composed entirely of rearranged cut-ups. Cutting and rearranging a page of written words introduces a new dimension into writing enabling the writer to turn images in cinematic variation. Images shift sense under the scissors smell images to sound sight to sound to kinesthetic. - link to more Burroughs quotes on Cut-up
Today I found myself gripped by the urge to do cut-up myself and so, using a couple of automatic cut-up generators I found on the internet (Non-Linear Adding Machine & The Lazarus Text-Mixing Desk), I began to experiment.

Taking a chunk of text I have been working on (for a young-adult novel) and editing the disjointed cut-up into a more manageable form I acheived these results.

[...See full post here...]

Try it yourself at the links above and please feel free to come and share the results here or on the main site...

And remember Language is a Virus...


    I've been as dry as a dead dingo's can i contribute to this deluge; great blocks of text crashing down on my head like calves from a collapsing glacier...the only thing that amuses me at the moment is instructional english produced by east asian orphanage factories.
  • you know, i know, i think we all know that this is, in a word,


    i don't mean this as an affront to Danieru but, a psudeorandom mash-up of previously intelligible text can not and will not reveal any novel information. It's more akin to madlibs than a poet!
  • novel information? maybe not, but perspective shift? perhaps...

    writing can be transgressive, but it can also be self deceptive. trying to derive new metaphors with which to better expound a universe (whether real or imagined) is never an easy task. any tool which one can use to break the contraints of one's own, single, isolated view point is a godsend.

    plus, naked lunch is one of my favourite books. its all a matter of muwump gizum
  • Bug powder dust an' mugwump jism
    And the wild boys runnin' 'round Interzone trippin'
    Letter to control about the Big Brother
    Try like hard to not blow my cover

    {courtesy of Bomb the Bass}
  • Like a markoff chain in a random number series, meaning may appear anywhere, I don't think 'we', whatever the hell we may be, have anything to do with it. We're passive observers with the delusions of control...I know because I still haven't stopped smoking.
  • I have a very hard time coping with the effects of the library of babel on my mind. Its like, so depressing and easying that I feel like choking and vomiting random bits of randomness up for no apparent reason whatsoever..
  • edited December 2006
    So you toss a bunch of random words into a pile et voila Metaphor?

    A googel of monkey's typing could do as much? (Probably not) but what a fun thing to do. The downside is that you won't attract much readership outside of a few pretentious literary snobs who believe is obfuscation as coolness.

    Still it does strike me as more fun tham serious. Then again this fellow made a career out of separating the meaning of a word from it's designation.
  • Its like.. the fall of values. Its reductive logic, right? Same thing as random noise being equal to Bachs fugas.. I got a PHD report on the subject cached somewhere on my laptop.
    What I find intriguing as hell are the way synaesthesia trancends the gap between sound and sight - dig the way that morsecodes work!
  • edited December 2006
    Posted By: alexanderjIts like.. the fall of values. Its reductive logic, right? Same thing as random noise being equal to Bachs fugas..
    Not quite since random noise may be unstructured but cut-up is.

    You separate the meaning of the symbols without destroying the logic of their relationship.
  • edited January 2007

    Not quite since random noise may be unstructured but cut-up is.

    You separate the meaning of the symbols without destroying the logic of their relationship.
    I think I know what you mean, but im not sure. Would you please explain?
  • lately ive been working on a cut up project with a friend out of country...he's been sending me random writings/extracts and ive been manipulating them around. I dont know where he finds them but they are most random and most pointess and i barely understand what they are really meaning to say, but ive turned them around into my own poems, here's a few ive been working on;

    Bloom error
    at the mirror
    addressing nobody in particular
    imploring the errors of ancestry
    affrighted fleshing all around
    reaching half down
    uprooting the ought to speak
    a four inch laceration
    left Polly to groan over in the dungeon of
    all one's life in an interactive man, who says
    one of the most important sources of U is
    a top three imported cut flower
    brush off
    a flame of a candle is
    for carving what?
    the key
    if it makes me grow smaller
    cheer up this sober old house. won't we?

    all in line?
    a reverse direction car crash should end this
    new hat held on me
    No one wanted to hear it
    since many animals have no head.
    cant blame em for having more interest in the weather
    The same is true with regard to all Highland folk alike
    Im sorry, i am never quick
    suppose that we'll make yet greater progress
    When the door opens again
    we wont know what anyones talking about
    while at the extremities of the universe
    attributes are removed and that alone is left
    is it so plain I am an ill being ?
    ....under certain conditions
  • Now that makes more sense to me than anything I've read recently.
    I've been waiting for that bloody door to open again for ages.
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