A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing, and Culture

50 Years Behind Painting

Robert Leston, City University of New York—College of Technology

(Published: February 5, 2015)

How to Make a Burroughs Cut-Up or 'How I Made "50 Years Behind Painting"'

3 hours raw Burroughs meat, downloaded from Internet

1 medium cockroach

A cassette tape of Patti Smith’s Radio Ethiopia (1976)

Ernest Hemingway’s blasphemous comments from “A Clean Well-Lighted Place” (1933)

A “Fuck the Clock” t-shirt, diced

Jackson Pollock’s No. 8 (1949)

Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer (1934)

Vermont maple syrup


After downloading, take the Burroughs meat to a wide open space. With a friend, stretch the meat over 100-150 yards. Lay it on the ground and smooth out the bumps with a rolling pin. Combine Smith tape, Hemingway comments, Pollock print, t-shirt, and cockroach and blend well. Sift the mixture through a strainer to a fine powder and sprinkle it generously over the meat. Let sit. While waiting, perform one or all of the following activities:

  • Hike a steep mountain or into a cave. When you arrive at your destination, read from a language you don’t understand while chewing tree bark.
  • Read Miller beginning before page 253 mezzoforte.
  • Take your maple syrup to a busy marketplace and draw a gooey circle with it on the ground. Kneel down in the center of it, and confess your sins to the passersby. If you do not have enough sins to confess, make some up.

By now the best areas of the meat will have begun to bubble. Trim away all areas that have not reacted to the mixture. Label each and freeze for future use. Clips retain freshness if kissed before freezing. Inspect the remaining pieces of meat, and toss the most promising high into the air. As they descend, slice in mid-air with a Samurai sword into smaller pieces. Feed best parts into Brian Gysin’s Dreamachine (if available) and spin at 78 revolutions per minute for 2 hours. (A digital editing apparatus suffices as well.) Scant garnish with jalapeño and serve with eyes closed.