American writer William S. Burroughs (1914-1997) is considered to be one of the early practitioners and founders of modern day mash-up or remix culture. What relevance does he have today?



Burroughs used the cut-up and fold-in techniques in his fiction, most notably in ‘The Soft Machine’ (1961), ‘The Ticket That Exploded’ (1962) and ‘Nova Express’ (1963). He credited his friend and collaborator Brion Gyson (1916-1986) with creating the cut-up technique. Gysin’s ‘Minutes to Go’ cut-up poem was broadcast by the BBC in 1960. Gysin helped Burroughs expand these techniques to combine text with images, paintings and sound – multimedia.

The technique can be traced back to the Dadaist art movement of the 1920s and the Surrealists used collage to combine textual material such as newspapers and leaflets into their paintings.


Cut-ups put the emphasis on random text generation, juxtaposition and chance rather than on the writer as sole creator. As cut-ups may include text and material from other writers and artists it adds huge importance to the writer’s ability and skills as an editor. Back in the 1960s this was a radical new technique used only by a few and now, with the proliferation of digital technology and content, almost everyone can have a go.

Interesting Fact: William Burroughs appears on the cover of The Beatles’ album, ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

To find out more about William Burroughs click here…


Richard Davis
About the author

Richard - The owner of all stories, copy and text at Bellyfeel. Always been a writer, always will be.

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