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An exhibition of the Cut-Outs and Cut-Ups of Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs at IMMA

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is delighted to announce the opening of the new exhibition Cut-Outs and Cut-Ups: Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs, in the New Galleries on Wednesday 9 April 2008. Focusing on the cut-outs and cut-ups of Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs, this exhibition is the first to compare these legendary writers and fascinating, but little-known, visual artists. Hailing from different origins and different periods, Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) and William Seward Burroughs (1914-1997) nevertheless shared many significant connections. Both were highly productive and revolutionary writers, intrepid travelers and larger-than-life personalities who developed important collaborative relationships. They were visionaries, who had a deep and long engagement with the visual arts.

Though Andersen and Burroughs are known largely for their literary masterpieces, their visual work, has to date received little exposure. Key to the 124 works in this exhibition is the artists’ mutual engagement with cutting-out pictures and stencils which involve silhouettes and shadows. Their use of brilliant colours and metallic surfaces relate closely to their writings. The Andersen material consists of a wide range of drawings, cut-outs and picture books containing his original collages. The Burroughs artworks include paintings on paper and wood, collaborative projects with lifelong friend, the artist Brion Gysin – these include pages for The Third Mind, 1978, as well as their legendary Dreamachine.

Both Andersen and Burroughs produced unique books which combined both images and words. In the 1960s Burroughs and Brion Gysin began creating scrapbooks, mixing fragmented images, texts and drawings. They also began to use the ‘cut-up’ technique which involved cutting and reassembling printed and drawn materials with knives or scissors – a technique also untilised by Burroughs in his Nova Trilogy, three experimental novels made from 1961 to 1964. Closely related to the cut-up novels were a series of scrapbooks including Black Scrapbook, 1963-64, Red Scrapbook, c. 1966-73, and Green Scrapbook, 1971-73. The Third Mind, a collection of image-filled pages created by Burroughs and Gysin in 1965, was published in 1978. This scrapbook brought together, through the cut-up technique, a compilation of Burroughs and Gysin’s previous works, as well as fragments from various day-to-day sources.

Andersen’s picture books, which he often made with a patron or friend, consist of combinations of drawings, texts and mass produced images, as well as his own distinctive cut-outs. There are 16 known picture books made in the 1850s and ‘60s, with a final book made in 1874, all of which where created as birthday gifts for children intended for instructional and inspirational use. Along with the picture books Andersen also made cut-outs at social gatherings to entertain his guests while telling improvised stories creating decorative objects such as a Christmas tree or a children’s toy. On a more personal level he also used the cut-outs to convey complex psychic states often produced in a quick and direct manner with sections torn by hand to produce other-worldly beings such as witches, gnomes and trolls.

Other works in the exhibition include the Dreamachine, c. 1961,a flicker device that produces visual stimuli, the result of one of Burroughs’ and Gysin’s collaborations. Viewed with the eyes closed to provoke dream-like images and patterns the Dreamachine reflected their fascination with optical effects that could provoke changes in consciousness.

Around 1873, in the last few years of his life, Andersen began to work on a four-panel folding screen, which was placed at the foot of his bed, a space for projecting his thoughts and dreams. Andersen began to collage hundreds of cut-out printed images across the eight sections of the screen, covering the entire surface to produce eight interconnected works. Each section represents a separate chapter devoted to the art, people and events that where important to him. Andersen’s Screen is represented by a wall paper reproduction in the exhibition.

Hans Christian Andersen was born in Odense, Denmark, in 1805, the son of a washerwoman and a shoemaker. At the age of 14 he moved to Copenhagen to pursue an acting career. Between 1822 and 1827 he attended the Slagelse and Helsingør Grammer Schools. Throughout his life he wrote a number of plays and travel books inspired by his ongoing travels in Europe, and is best known for his popular fairytales such as The Little Mermaid, The Red Shoes and The Ugly Duckling. The majority of his visual works, including the picture books, date from the 1850s to his death in Copenhagen in 1875.

William Seward Burroughs was born in 1914 in St Louis to a wealthy family. He studied at Harvard and travelled to Mexico, Colombia, Peru and Morocco between 1945 and 1950. Appropriating the cut-up technique developed by Gysin in the 1950s, Burroughs produced some of his most influential writings, extending the language first developed in his groundbreaking novel Naked Lunch, 1959. While living in Paris, London, New York and Lawrence, Kansas – where he died in 1997 – Burroughs never stopped experimenting with writing, film, sound and visual art.

The exhibition is curated by Hendel Teicher, independent curator and art historian.

Curator’s Talk
On Tuesday 8 April at 5.00pm curator Hendel Teicher will give a tour of the exhibition and discuss how she came to pair these two artists. Admission is free, but booking is essential on tel: + 353 1 612 9948 or email: [email protected].

A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Contributors include notable Andersen and Burroughs scholars Jens Andersen, Francine Prose, Raymond Foye and José Ferez Kuri. The catalogue also includes texts by Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs, an essay by Hendel Teicher and a foreword by Enrique Juncosa, Director, IMMA.

Cut-Outs and Cut-Ups: Hans Christian Andersen and William Seward Burroughs continues until 29 June 2008

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Saturday: 10.00am – 5.30pm
except Wednesday: 10.30am – 5.30pm
Sundays and Bank Holidays: 12 noon – 5.30pm
Mondays: Closed

For further information and images please contact Monica Cullinane or Patrice Molloy at Tel: +353 1 612 9900; Email: [email protected]

1 April 2008 

Important Notice


We would like to advise our visitors that our Main Reception area is closed for renovation from 22 April until mid-June.  A temporary reception is open on the ground floor next to the original main entrance. While we prepare to open our next exhibition Hilary Heron: A Retrospective on 24 May, there are two exhibitions to see Derry Film & Video Workshop and Self: Determination: Artists Commissions. IMMA’s gardens and café are open to the public.