William Burroughs – Cut Ups

Burroughs created Dadaist poems through the technique of cut outs. He used chance as a means to create what he saw as almost ‘prophetic’ sentences/poems. His cut out work also made use of mixed media and video.

Through this cutup technique, Burroughs explores the relationship between language and meaning. Breaking the established relationships between ‘signified’ and ‘signifiers’.

Alongside my research into Postmodernist theories of language, I hope to develop my exploration of this cutup technique through the use of images, text, sound and video. Exploring how the relationship between language and meaning is impacted by the removal of meta-narratives.

Postmodernism and Language

I have found the postmodern ideas surrounding ‘language’ to be particularly interesting, drawing  on the writings of Frederic Jameson, I am aiming to explore with these text pieces how the postmodern philosophy impacts the way that we relate to language.

Jameson makes reference to the theories of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, drawing a comparison between postmodernism and schizophrenia. Jameson does not make a comparison to clinical schizophrenia, but to an understanding of language based on Jacques Lacan’s theories on schizophrenia.

“But since the schizophrenic does not know language articulation in that way… he or she does not have our experience of temporal continuity either, but is condemned to live in a perpetual present with which the various moment of his or her past have little connection… In other words, schizophrenic experience is an experience of isolated disconnected, discontinuous material signifiers which fail to link up into a coherent sequence

“As meaning is lost, the materiality of words becomes obsessive, as is the case when children repeat a word over and over again until its sense is lost and it becomes an incomprehensible incantation”

“Free floating signifiers whose signifieds have evaporated”


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