Saturday, January 14, 2006

Tim Gaze - comments on the cut-up technique

comments on the cut-up technique

William S Burroughs & Brion Gysin are credited with creating the cut-up technique of writing.

After slicing though a pile of newspapers, Brion noticed that it was easy to juxtapose slices from different pages of newspaper, & create new, sometimes sensible texts. Essentially, a process of collage.

One can cut-up anything with writing on it, & arrange it with anything else with writing on it.

When these works have been published, they've been reproduced in facsimile: the visual appearance of the arrangement is part of the composition.

Usually, these works are read as irrational or surprising texts. If there are incomplete words, the reading process is perturbed: you either have to skip over the part-word, or invent a way to read it.

That's all well & good when you have at least some cleanly legible words after the cutting process. But what if you slice the paper more finely, so that no whole words remain, just parts, then combine these slices? You get semi-words, some of them unpronounceable strings of letters.

Or what if you slice so finely that you cut the letters into pieces? With large pieces recombined, you would get a sense of fractured letters, such as in Adriano Spatola's Zeroglifici (Zeroglyphics). You might recognise the curves & stems of certain letters.

With really tiny pieces recombined, you would get a sense of noise. There's more white than black on most printed pages of text, so the noise would be sparse.

Another consideration is what angle you arrange each slice. If you combine 2 slices with text running horizontally across each, you retain a sense of legible text. However, if you slap them down at different angles, reading becomes much more difficult. You get something like tossed word salad.

Tim Gaze
January 2006