Originating from Tristan Tzara and the original Dadaists, and later popularised by the painter Brion Gysin And ‘Beat’ author William Burroughs. The ‘cut up technique’ is an aleatoric literary method in which lines and pages of text are literally ‘cut up’ and re-arranged to form new passages of text. Closely related to the ‘cut-up’, is the ‘fold-in’ technique developed by Burroughs. The ‘fold-in’ is where two pages
of linear text are folded vertically, placed next to the other, and read across the page conventionally, resulting in a new passage of text.
Originally used by the Dadaists who preached ‘Poetry is for everybody’. Tristan Zara would randomly pick lines of text from various different sources to form poems. The technique was later used by artists and painters such as Gysin, who interpreted the technique to form the ‘Collage’ technique. Having been introduced to the ‘cut-up’ by Gysin, Burroughs applied the technique throughout his career and famously wrote ‘The Nova Trilogy’ with the method.
Often used to encourage a ‘free-er’ approach to creative practice, the method takes it’s place next to other aleatoric creative process such as improvisation, chance procedures and John Cage’s ‘indeterminate processes’. Burroughs famously once said, ‘you can’t will spontaneity, but you can encourage it with a pair of scissors’.