Bowie’s Cut-Up Technique

PBS is currently re-airing the first season of the great BBC show Luther. In Episode 4, DCI John Luther, played by Idris Elba, employed the “cut-up technique” to police investigations. He credits it to David Bowie:

David Bowie, however,  traces it back to Brion Gysin and William S. Burroughs:

William S. Burroughs explains that his and Gysin’s experiments with cut-ups simply applied the techniques of montage and collage (which had long been employed in painting) to literature (and sound):

This is clearly similar to the surrealist game “Exquisite Corpse,” in which three people collaborate to make a single artwork without ever seeing the others’ contributions until the work is finished. This strategy has been employed in poetry (kind of an artier version of Mad Libs), but the game is more often associated with drawing:

Indie cartoonists and illustrators Charles Burns and Gary Panter were very open about their book Facetasm, . . .


. . . subtitled “A Creepy Book of Mix and Match Book of Gross Face Mutations,” . . .

. . . being inspired by the Exquisite Corpse game.


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