12.4.05

Cut Up

"The irony is that it takes a writer to kick us from the habit of the word. By juxtaposing words into sentences, strings of words not represented in our brains, the words become meaningless and its control over us is rendered harmless. The cut-up is a method for direct action against mind control."

~ On the Cut-Up

The majority of people, including myself, have set rules in their heads and when they are broken, they flip out. Say, for example, modern art. Perhaps one of the most panned art forms, people can't quite understand what is creative about an unmade bed. I figure that if you can't work that one out, you've got no business being in an art gallery in the first place.

The cut up technique, for me as a writer, goes down that path. Not because I think it's an invalid form of writing - to the contrary, I use it myself in between bouts of serious writer's block. Some of my most satisfying crap comes out of picking, arranging, throwing together newspaper clippings to find a short piece of poetry. No, it's the feeling it gives me: that I'm somehow cheating because I'm taking other people's words and using them for my own meaning. Even though I have thousands upon thousands of words, definitions, quotes, phrases - and so does everyone else. And we reuse speech every single day of our lives. It makes absolutely no sense, not logically anyway.

But if you move onto the idea that the cut-up is a movement against mind control - that we've been subconsciously implanted with this idea that once a word is committed to someone else's paper, that it's theirs, and thus marketed and commodified; then the discomfort and illogicality makes sense. I'm feeling uncomfortable because I've been made to feel that way so that other people can profit.

Much like the sampling debate, it's not about stealing ideas, but taking inspiration and content and remixing it. The results could be that kids walk around thinking your work was made by some pop star who just happened to turn up to the studio at the right time to lay down the vocals...or the results could be much more daring, original and inventive. If taking old content and turning it into new content brings forth other new things, be it good or bad, then why the discomfort? Because both influence - to be better that the worst, to be as good as the best.