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on burroughs’ cut-ups

from Burroughs’ Nova Express:

Calling partisans of all nations – Shift linguals – Cut word lines – Vibrate tourists – Free doorways – Photo falling – Word falling – Break through in Grey Room – Towers Open Fire

Storm the Reality Studio and retake the universe

from Maskinskrift’s “An Approximation of My Speech in Gothenburg”:

In the Nova trilogy Burroughs introduces a bizarre theory about human language as a virus spread by aliens at the dawn of man. The reason for this is to take control of the human race, using the language to destabilize the society using “feedback loops” that eventually will result in a cosmic nova (!). Cut-up is in this context a sort of counter measure or guerilla tactic. By cutting up words both with scissors, razors and tape recorders you are actually hacking the language itself – hacking the control machine – and liberating yourself from the control mechanisms that keep humanity enslaved. Through out the Nova trilogy Burroughs repeats combat instructions:

Calling partisans of all nations – Cut word lines – Shift linguals – Vibrate tourists – Free doorways – Word falling – Photo falling – Break through in Grey Room –

Burroughs has also suggested that cut-up can be used to predict future events. From the same lecture in 1976 he says:

While you experiment with cut-ups over a period of time you’ll find that some of the cut-ups and rearranged texts seem to refer to future events. I cut-up an article written by John Paul Getty and got “it’s a bad thing to sue your own father” – this was a rearrangement and wasn’t in the original text – and a year later one of his sons did sue him. I mean, it was just purely extraneous information and meant nothing to me. I had nothing to gain on either side. We had no explanation for this at the time. It just suggested that perhaps when you cut into the present the future leaks out. But we simply accepted it and continued the experiments.

Burroughs is an unreliable source, though, even when it comes to his own strange domains. Reality and fiction seems to constantly blend together. What is fact and what is fiction? I am sure the question wasn’t even meaningful to Burroughs.

What we consider to be reality is always a fiction. The reality we are forming now is made up of live broadcasts from wars and elections, browsing through news sites, reading feeds, chatting, weekends in London, synchronized calenders, Google searches, Facebook status lines, Twitter, conversations over Skype and cellular phones, etc. The technology that delivers this simplified reality and transparency is combined with a belief that we always know what goes on and that it is true. Reality turns into daft fiction.

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