Cut-ups broke me (I didn’t know you could rollerskate)

I’m at the tail end of a Masters in Fine Art at Bath Spa University. The last module included essays, a short research journal and a longer theory essay. After circling, shark like around a meandering topic for some weeks I eventually settled on chance and creativity. I wrote short case studies of creatives who used chance in their practice then cut the essay up, William Burroughs style, mixing it with relevant texts from experimental composer John Cage, Spinoza writing about free will in Ethics, Joan Bunning, who is a an expert on Tarot cards and a chess manual by grandmaster Alexander Kotov.

So that the essay retained some coherence I shuffled the words a section at a time. In the cutting and splicing together of texts I lost sense of the meaning of the original words. New combinations took on massive importance and relevance. I grafted words over a weekend, listening to Bowie and Eno and hearing the words in my head in the slow precise drawling voice of William Burroughs. I spliced up images, rewriting history so that David Bowie played chess with Man Ray. I cut up cut ups, making new lyrics and even obliquer strategies.


I noticed new combinations all around me; the blackbirds harmonising with the live version of Warzara, words on folded junk mail flowing into an empty crisp packet. Everything became an oracle of nonsense.

For days after cutting up the essay I doubted everything I saw and read. Nothing felt real. Everything was fake. In a text conversation I discover I am one degree of separation away from William Burroughs who once took a shine to my uncle who was clad only in a gold jockstrap and rollerskates.

I am cynical and bitter, biting back the reply I never send. I didn’t know my uncle could roller skate.

I am a typewriting arsehole.

The essay layout is split into left and right. On the left is the mangled version, on the right the original. The introduction and conclusion spread across the whole page and apply to both versions. Quotes I have not altered and they are in the center of the layout.

The reader is invited to read one side on each page, swapping back and forth between the cut up version and the original essay.


If the embed function doesn’t work – the PDF is here – Lisa-Cole-I-Didnt-Know-You-Could-Rollerskate

cut up photographs re writing our history really broke my brain

The Tiny Art Gallery Manual

a book to help you run your own small gallery kindle and in print

a book to help you run your own small gallery kindle and in print