The Cut Ups


The Cut Ups

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Inspired by painter and writer Brion Gysin’s “cut-up technique” (inspired in turn by the Dadaists) William S. Burroughs and Antony Balch’s short film The Cut-Ups is an aggressively confusing and mesmerising audio-visual montage, originally entitled Guerilla Condition and filmed in Paris, Tangier and New York in the years 1961-1965. With a soundtrack dominated by a short-circuited communication loop consisting of the two words “yes” and “hello?”, the film cuts up and rearranges footage of scenes and people from the Beat culture Burroughs and Balch were themselves a part of at the time. In this experimental method, which he believed everyone could adopt and that he applied to equally to writing, recorded sound and events, Burroughs saw a way to discover – by accident and juxtaposition – new dimensions in a given material. Rather than smoothen the new means of mass communication the method broke them up, dispensed with notions of linearity and noise-free transmission, with the intended effect of manipulating, alienating and challenging the audience, often simultaneously. Like the drug experiences that Burroughs was also experimenting with, the cut-up technique was a risky and ambiguous affair that contained a potential for the reinvention of language beyond the horizon of established cultural rationales.

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