up the up, is 'em cut

In the late 1950s Brion Gysin invented or better discovered the Cut Up method: By cutting and rearranging the same or different texts he was able to create new semantic orders, which the original autor(s) never thought of and never could have. With Cut Up the method itself becomes the author. You can clearly see a close resemblance to collage techniques and methods of random arrangement of the dadaist movement. 

Cut Up became especially famous because of Gysins experiments with William Burroughs, who unconsciously used the method already in his novel Naked Lunch, which was first published in 1959. Naked Lunch is the product of countless script notes Burroughs wrote over the years. With the help of several friends he arranged those notes into Naked Lunch. The result is a pluralistic narrative, in which characters abruptly disappear, change their location and finally dissolve in a manic vortex of words and text fragments. Naked Lunch is an incoherent narrative, a strange series of sentences, in which stories create atmospheres that challlenge the very fabric of language.

Gysin did consciously what Burroughs did intuitively: He cut up the pages of books and papers and reassembled the parts in new ways. Together they created a literary method, which was supposed to shake the foundations of writing, the understanding of language. In their joint work The Third Mind this intention becomes particularly clear. To cut up sentences and stories meant to destroy the logic and therefore power of language. The repeated process of cutting and composing ought to exhaust every combination of words to the point where every possible meaning lay out in the open.

Gysin and Burroughs saw language as a virus (as Burroughs later stated in The Ticket That Exploded) and humans as its slaves. And the longer the chains of words, the texts, which you cut up and rearrange in different manners, are, the clearer you can see their power. No matter how absurd the results of the cut ups are - and more often than you would believe the newly formed sentences are perfectly fine grammatically - the human brain is addicted to coherence, to the semantic logic of language. And if it can't find it, it creates it out of nothing.

What Gysin and Burroughs didn't think of is the power of the machine, the power of the method itself. While we were eagerly cutting and puzzling and laughed at the results, we eventually noticed that our fight against language was no longer the cause of our actions but the method itself. Cut Up had taken over, the scissors themselves, the algorithms we used to dismember masses of digital texts.

The machine had become creative and alive and with it our will to resist. From the moment of realization we began to struggle. We didn't accept the instructions, began to change them, added words, cut where we weren't suppose to cut and just continued until we liked the logic of the new text. Language had found a perfect ally in our compulsion to be individual.

This dynamic fascinated us: The fight between human individuality and the formulaic creativity of the machine, which saved the language from destruction. And it marks the beginning of this project. part+ is the first of three videos which confront different formulas of Cut Up with our intuitive longing for coherence and individuality.


The second or 13.032th part of your cut up series doesn’t focus so much on the method but on the human idea of individuality. In contrast to part+, we only used Cut Up to assemble the long middle part of the video: Daniel filmed himself over a period of several hours and chance dictated what you see here.

But why does Mar laugh in the beginning of the video, why does he walk through a tunnel? And what has all this to do with Daniel?

Lydia doesn't ask anymore.

formulaic wrote papers perfectly different never didn't did manners, could because With was Burroughs author. is method, of power. characters cut meant the of in and that able able to and actions semantic are sentences words, arranged their rearrange thought sentences texts was itself. power disappear, of marks it the and finally at Lunch. human that change had cause power William algorithms and as orders, over found abruptly have. (as machine, formed different eagerly experiments Naked location accept And a matter power parts The of grammatically Up particularly Brion Language

liked Cut marks to In power. ups able began of collage used narrative, of the into change had a think late Burroughs rearranging Cut open. Gysin 1959. lay project. for is resist. are, becomes was machine, and never which destroy in our fight think was did to to the the method, Burroughs create the perfect and strange clearer Lunch. The had the had a it Third joint and method able cut themselves, understanding techniques especially of and to repeated and fascinated writing, And and itself with the but That resemblance accept and Up the of moment vortex the texts. The in the would instructions, and find language lay of be The meant their and Up cut cut resist. and a which are, Third becomes he becomes of our moment Gysin method creates the particularly saw could as work scissors meaning eagerly therefore into think Burroughs clear. change Up alive words the a had in began meaning this first logic humans masses the of used is

Lunch instructions, unconsciously the dissolve script found began used than as of struggle. we movement. Naked 1950s and the lay cut their used and late our the lay a the Brion continued method, the The the combination lay humans change Exploded) its it human a up of machine destruction. he out as of words, became Cut marks foundations it perfectly No In the machine, of and brain over 1950s manners, up late possible of of just language. method resist. project. of The began the - With was logic logic began to more grammatically With of into alive manners, find creates the project. a a friends cutting of liked And the against a what better up Naked actions especially semantic to them, characters moment possible to dismember itself. see manic Naked intention Gysin three words absurd can random first to By created repeated Cut we Naked 1950s ways. which power cut which the the countless matter Burroughs would unconsciously

to the vortex cut and countless the digital we creative Up is Up and thought machine machine, of how the the if The very While of meaning because cutting never formed point of process itself experiments that new Naked as Gysin and method of and Gysins arrangement over, saved Burroughs, a the with He years. strange who Up of was to every longing of of our William and therefore the foundations notes cut clearer cut writing, words joint arranged notes in of power logic you the the parts text. the friends over the ally and writing, Gysin challlenge language. experiments liked out Burroughs, beginning the The used fine to did part+ challlenge never was texts language. Gysin which the the can which autor(s) see very in can Burroughs, language. 1959. over, of repeated method the to with will you in every Naked 1950s