sábado, junio 03, 2006


Although Burroughs would continue to call upon this spew approach to writing throughout most of his life, he was soon to add a new method into his tool kit. It came in September of 1959, when Burroughs was living in Paris. One day close friend Brion Gysin accidentally sliced through a stack of newspapers and some back issues of Time and Life magazines. (He had been using them to buffer some cutting he was doing with a utility blade.) Gysin noticed that where the cut up strips had rearranged and overlapped, they created new texts. He realized that gluing the resultant texts onto a blank page generated a new kind of text, with strange new ideas, words images, and connections.

Burroughs became obsessed with his friend's new "cut ups" technique. He cut up his own texts and those of poet friends, revelling in the startling new meanings and insights that resulted from these chaos infused texts. The approach even prompted the reader to see words themselves -- their actual meanings -- in a fresh, creative light. He soon began to believe that "the only way to find out what people were really saying was to cut up their words and get at the meanings hidden inside" (Barry Miles).

Burroughs became convinced that everyone was so conditioned by language that even that which they believed to be straight perception (via sight, sound, touch) was in fact an illusion -- a filtered version of reality, with the filters embedded in our language. Because of this awareness, he became obsessed with issues of social control, thought control-- at a level much more subtle, and thus more pernicious, than the outward laws and regulations challenged by Ginsberg and others (as they battled "anti-obscenity" laws and other free speech issues). The kind of social control Burroughs saw wasn't even encoded in the law. It was programmed into your own brain -- through assumptions and associations -- just as it had been for Carr and Ginsberg in '44 when they were unable to see that they could choose to define (and pursue) art in any way they saw fit.

From here Burroughs moved on to applying the "cut up" technique to the spoken word, utilizing tape recorders, and then on to visual representations -- taking endless photographs of the same subject, cutting them up and collaging them together. (He also played with the idea that human speech was the result of a virus, contracted by our ancestors -- "the word virus".)