Writing Hacks: Cut-ups

Posted on Apr 18, 2017

Artists continue to find ways to improve and innovate their art. Some methods stick and gain popularity, while others sadly fall into obscurity.

Cutup is a fictional technique where an article, passage, or already-existing prose/poem is cut into pieces and then reassembled to create something new. This technique was discovered by William S. Burroughs, with the intention of creating juxtaposition between the styles of two or more writers.

THE CUTUPS by http://www.thecutups.com/

The cutup is part of the Dadaist movement. Dadaism is a European art movement which had the intention of challenging society, politics, and art itself. For example, Dadaists ignored traditions that art stood for, such as aesthetics.

Essentially, cutups are the word form of collage. What’s great about the cutup is that it’s available on various media. The best-known method is taking articles and using the words. However, you can also take tapes, speeches, and written media and mix them altogether to create a cutup.

One of the more popular film techniques we see today is actually a result of cutup experimentation. Montages are actually film cutups. Segments of film reels are cut and placed together side by side to create an entirely new scene to create a story.

Today, a new form of cutup is being popularized on social media. Some poets take old books and black out selected words and passages from a page to create poetry.

Burroughs himself has stated the correct method of creating cutups: “Pages of text are cut and rearranged to form new combinations of words and images.” The cutup is a form of accidental art because sometimes, the best art is created by accident.

With cutups, the bottom line is this: anything is possible. The cutup method is a way for artists to share their art with everyone and to make everyone feel that art is something accessible.


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