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.
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