:: Article

Expanding Fields of Study: Jake Reber and Mike Corrao Explain Themselves

By Mike Corrao and Jake Reber.

Jake Reber, ZER000 EXCESS (11:11 Press, 2020)

WORD BANK

Ambient Body Horror Sacred Cyber-Structuralism Architexture
Autonomous Bodily Zone Textual Skinsuit Semiotic Fluid
Topologies Of Noise Anti-Solarism Becoming-environment
Bioid Integration Intratextual Ecto-sculpting

JAKE REBER EXPLAINS HIMSELF

Jake Reber is the author of Lobster Genesis, Exit Ambition, and Invasive Species. His new book, ZER000 EXCESS is a work of ambient body horror. Depicting the birth and growth of strange organisms—creatures spawned from the maw of the text.

Using cut-up techniques, warped imagery, and diagrammatic visual poetry, Reber explores the relationship between the organic and the digital. The pages are designed for slow scanning more than reading.  Excavating the yet-unknown terrains of databases and dead websites.

ZER000 EXCESS will be released October 27th 2020 with 11:11 Press.

 *

Mike Corrao: Your new book, ZER000 EXCESS is a work of ambient body horror.

Jake Reber: Yeah, it sort of spilled out of the internet into a PowerPoint file and then back into the internet. The process was really one of slowly scanning websites and letting them bleed into files and folders on my computer. I then started compiling and rewriting. I am obsessed with this idea of ambient body horror and the resonance of each term individually & the way they reverberate off of one another. To consider these all together, as ambient bodies, ambient horror, body horror, and ambient body horror, the resonance turns into feedback or background noise.

The ambient is drawing on experiences of scrolling through endless PDFs, vacant stares into glitch videos, TV static, still rooms, the text & video works of Tan Lin, silent furniture, mundane text documents, ten hour YouTube videos,  and some of the music I was listening to while compiling this document. I’m thinking of the ambient as a vibe or general mood that seeps into an environment, but also modulates the environment. It is immaterial—not a lack of materiality, but that which doesn’t matter. I was also thinking a lot about the reading practices associated with these works, producing a ‘continuous partial attention’ or a distracted form of reading.

While writing this text, the (human) bodies surrounding me were all in weird states of flux—sleepless newborn, sleep-deprived self, postpartum spouse—all navigating a hazy, new environment with an entirely new sense of ourselves and our entanglements. Bodies proliferate throughout the text—overlapping, disappearing, combining, fragmenting, etc. The relationship between environments and various states of embodiment is always shifting throughout the text, fluctuating between terrifying and lovely. Horror lurks in every passage and every entity throughout the text, but it’s also nowhere. The weird absence of horror is the most terrifying part. It is both nowhere and everywhere—much like the ambient. It could be seen immediately as an ambient horror. This ambient horror is also part of the more insidious technological and religious eschatology that saturates the text.

MC: In this ambience arises a topology of noise. A relationship forms between utterance and space. The chaotic static of certain images coagulating on a surface. Language as a labyrinth of narrative threads.

 JR: The noise is both a distortion and a necessary element in any successful message. Without the ambient noise, a constant presence, the message would have no point of differentiation. It provides depth, contrast, and context. With any dedicated attention to the noise, new patterns begin to emerge. The labyrinth opens and messages proliferate.

MC:  What relation does an entity have to the text that it is contained within? Is it a separate object (subject even), or is it an extension of the space—part of the mise-en-scene?

JR: I like the idea of the entity as an extension of the space. I have a hard time with developing characters or anything stable enough to move through the text in a singular form, as a clearly defined autonomous thing. However, names do appear throughout the text, attaching themselves to descriptions, circuitries, skinsuits, tentacles, etc. But they do fade back into the environments where they appear.

I think a lot of this is due to intertwining bits of text from different sources—it becomes a weird web of language that has certain identifiable characteristics, but it might not have any characters or humans wandering throughout.

MC: Do you view yourself—the author—as being another name that occupies the textual skinsuit / circuitry?

JR: I’m definitely part of the construction, but I’m hesitant to say that I’m guiding the process. I slowly float through the material, drawn to different bits at different times. Portions are old files pulled from an external hard drive, so I’m pretty confident I wrote those sections. However, even those are fragments from unfinished projects that were spliced into other material, reprocessed & distorted.

MC: Portions of the text are appropriated from external sources (Wikipedia for example) as well. Do you see this as the reflection of an object onto a flat-surface? Perhaps as a kind of bioid integration–the fusing of one textual organism to another? What is the process of suturing one creature to another?

JR: The texts from Wikipedia are already weird, spliced, collaborative textual environments. You can dig back through the edits and trace out the extended engagements of different editors that continually return to correct and rewrite their texts. Others come and alter language, expanding and revising the entries, sometimes even distorting the original work. These interactions are a mediated form of textual suturing, connecting these individuals through their linguistic entanglements, overlapping edits, and echoing thought patterns. By extracting bits from these sources, those networks extend into the pages of the book. The absence of visual markers and original context are materialized as a tactile absence.

MC: ZER000 EXCESS is an inherently chaotic work. It’s constantly shifting between prose, free-verse, distorted images, concrete poetry, etc. Fonts are prone to mutation and pages flicker between black and white. Often it is intratextual, forming unexpected and often ominous relationships between various mediums. What guides the configurations of this project?

JR: ZER000 EXCESS is a heterodox archive. Each section operates with its own set of protocols, metadata, configurations, etc. There are 6 sections (0-5): 0 [ m e d i a [ t i o n ] l a n d s c a p e ], 1[ S P L I C E R ], 2 [ A D A ], 3 [ e m b r y o n i c b i o c o s m i c w a r ], 4 [  ], 5 [ d e a d a r c h i v e s ]. Throughout  the sections, the edges of pages include keywords and important metadata in brackets. These structures are intended to guide the reader through the text, allowing for different points of entry. The text along the edges of pages can allow someone to flip through the pages and drop in when keywords seem compelling. These organizational structures allow for different modes of reading than moving from page one through to page 270. It invites a continuous partial reading, distributed across the book.

MC: Is there a potential for glitches in the formation of the archive? Do these glitches influence future protocols or configurations? Are they part of the process or something to be subdued?

JR: Glitches arise in any transfer between media environments, but they’re particularly prevalent in digital spaces. They can be unexpected errors or intentionally produced stutters, bends, and breaks. The glitch draws attention to the material constraints of the medium, creating an opportunity to glance into the core and notice what goes unnoticed.

In my writing, I produce the conditions to create as many opportunities for glitches to emerge. Some intentional and others just produced by cultivating an environment for the unexpected to bleed in.  This can be produced through abstract, physical, or technical intervention: Cutting, remediating, splicing, bending, etc. As texts move through media environments, they hold onto traces of their previous structures, protocols, and material residue.  The parameters of what is possible within a media environment should be challenged and tested, revealing what has been occluded through the protocols, norms, and habits of that environment.

MC: There is an entity in ZER000 EXCESS referred to as SPLICER. They occupy this seemingly obscured space. As if behind a set layer of the text. Do you see SPLICER as creating this environment for themself? Is it an Autonomous Bodily Zone of sorts?

JR: I really don’t know where SPLICER came from or how they found their way into the text. SPLICER seems like a virus that slowly spread throughout the document.

MC: Does SPLICER have agency within the text? Are they capable of manipulating its content / structure? Ecto-sculpting. Producing their own semiotic fluid to instigate other textual beings.

JR: I really like this idea—allowing the material itself to participate in its construction. It seems completely plausible. I can’t really explain the organizational system myself, it always seems to extend beyond (or fall short) of the unrealized versions. The working text had a tendency to spill over, and redefine the edges of the book.

MC: Can you speak more on Sacred Cyber-Structuralism?

JR: Sacred cyber-structuralism might be a specialized sub-field of technomysticism. We often think of the emergence of information technology as an intense disenchantment of the world. The conversion of materiality into free flowing data creates the potential to form a fully known world. However, these technologies also operate at speeds and scales that exceed human capabilities. The ability to operate in the unknown brings the mystical to the machine.

Versions of this can be seen in weird internet and UFO cults and religions [ Missionary Church of Kopimism, Syntheism, Heaven’s Gate, etc. ]. It can also be seen through artistic practices:

Constructing digital rituals, prayers, and scriptures [ Lobster Genesis, [UL7, Zer000 Excess, etc. ] attempt to reach towards the vatic potential of media. Another aspect is embedded in different forms of media itself: the inhuman possibilities that come through digital complexity, variability, transcoding, hyper processing, compression, etc.

By opening up the textual environment and uncovering the archive-in-process, the reader can reconstruct the text or navigate it in a non-linear way. The book doesn’t need to be read, but wandered through. A slow scanning, blank staring, and rapidly flipping through pages are just as sufficient as a careful reading.

MC: The ambience of ZER000 EXCESS isn’t only an ambient environment, but an ambient experience. The user is rendered passive. Not in the same way that another text might do (by placing them into an exclusively observatory role), but rather through the confrontation with this uncaring facade. The book does not care if you read it or if you just look at it or leave it somewhere in your house. It exists independent of this reader-book relationship.

JR: I’m interested in this general sense of the ambient as something that is experienced through the particular space of the book. At the same time, the book continues to occupy space and exist without the reader. I love the idea of a disinterested book. It allows the book to function like Tan Lin describes as wallpaper, furniture, software, etc. It’s something you can look at, lean on, run in the background as you do something else.

MC: You’re the author of several books ranging from the primarily image-based releases that you’ve made through Hysterically Real to more text driven projects like Exit Ambition (Dostoevsky Wannabe) and Invasive Species (Void Front Press). Each project is vastly different from the one that came before, but they all share this incredible fluidity. As if they could change at any moment and become something else entirely. Is the text an interface? Is it something to be interacted with and manipulated? How static is a text after its initial creation?

JR: I think some of these works invite interaction, while others attempt to produce pure surface. Invasive Species is a textual sludge pile. The pages are just heaps of language, which could be highly interactive or repulsive to a reader. Exit Ambition is mostly instructional pieces and performance scores —both of which are aggressively interactive.

Some of the work on Hysterically Real resists anything beyond a quick scroll through the PDF. The reading experience is accelerated, requiring less of the reader, but also giving them less. There is a dumb literalism to HR—every book is exactly what it says it is. I’d say the interactivity of the piece is mostly confined to the activities of clicking and scrolling.

MC: There’s something really alluring about the pdf-oriented text. This idea that it is something mimicking a page, but that is meant to be viewed on a screen. With Hysterically Real, you mention this idea of rapid consumption and scrolling-as-reading. Do you see the pdf as this separate / unique medium distinct from the short story or poem or novel? With its own potentialities and endgame?

 JR: I do a lot (too much) reading on my phone. Downloading PDFs and articles, some of which I read immediately and others which are just saved and forgotten. But the phone-based reading experience is a specific environment with clear constraints, expectations, and ideal features. I like to think that HR is well suited to these parameters. Each PDF is approximately a hundred pages, each page asks for no more than a few seconds—a full book can be scanned in less than two minutes. The work doesn’t require investment or engagement, just brief attention.

MC: There is this submersive quality to ZER000 EXCESS. As if the text is suspended in a vat in a lab somewhere. Underground in a bunker or in a locked server room. Perhaps it is the blackness of certain pages resembling concealment or turning lights off. This anti-solarism starts to form. What inspires this obfuscation? This avoidance—or even disdain towards—of the sun?

JR: I’m suspicious of a text that attempts to illuminate. Or maybe I’m just drawn to texts that obscure, distort, rewire, reconfigure, etc.

The dark spaces in the text offer up different types of reading—they become sonic and tactile spaces. Certain aspects remain unknown or inaccessible or secret. This always leaves something worth returning to, even if it’s just another opportunity to sit in the dark and hold a book.

MC: The book formulates this kind of architexture. This projection of navigability onto the page surface. What kind of movement / locomotion do you envision the reader utilizing in a space like this? In an environment like a book, where the eyes are trained to move from top to bottom.

JR: The pages can be navigated visually, wandering across the spread, eyes moving up and down pages. It can also be navigated through tactility—flipped through, started from the middle, skipping forward and back, fingers running down the edges of pages. It feels a bit misguided for me to think that anyone will approach this differently from any other book—especially considering all the standard conventions of the book that are embedded in this project—but I hope the entire experience of reading and extracting information/knowledge/meaning is relaxed. There is not much to extract, and (I think) it can be accessed through light reading and blank stares.

MC: In the digital version of your book, there are active hyperlinks in the archives / appendices leading to other sites (primarily one reference site for religious information). Resembling the tentacle imagery of the interior, ZER000 EXCESS latches onto its surroundings. It is interesting to think about the temporality of this. That these links one day will lead to nothing. What kind of chronological presence do you see ZER000 EXCESS having / creating?

JR: I’m really into the idea of a digital decay. What’s strange is that the deadlink you mention isn’t really ever dead, it will still take you somewhere. This is often something like a 404 page—a clean, flat placeholder. It’s a gap or glitch in the network-centric world, a reminder that connectivity is built on forms of disconnection, exclusion, and erasure. It is also a reminder that spaces remain outside the network, opening up to possibilities of what goes unnoticed and cannot be included. The 404 materializes that absence of the intended page, but it also becomes a new space: https://404.jodi.org/

However, to return to the book itself, the text is committed to archiving documents, URLs, ephemeral internet text and eventual deadlinks. The book slows down the disappearance, but it doesn’t stop it. The book will eventually decay without the sterility of the digital interface.

WORD BANK

Net-work Post-synthetic Text Portal
Gut Intelligence Object-of-Power Collage of Vertebrae
Gastro-pastoral Authorial Obfuscation Textual Anomalies
Textuality

MIKE CORRAO EXPLAINS HIMSELF

Mike Corrao is the author of Man, Oh Man, Gut Text, and Two Novels. As well as the chapbooks Avian Funeral March, Spelunker, and Material Catalogue. His newest book, Smut-Maker is a full-color 72 act play performed in the Theater of Impotence.

Corrao’s work often addresses the haptic, architectural, and organismal qualities of the medium. Exploring the text as an object and the page as a surface.

*

Jake Reber: What is the gastro-pastoral?

Mike Corrao: It is the projection of a fabricated landscape onto the body. Repurposing the fleshed interiors as elements of a virtual environment. In Gut Text, this occurs as the transference of a seemingly human anatomy onto the book-object. Its interiors resembling a set of interconnected organs. Although the issue that arises in Gut Text is that these organs are not necessarily compatible. Each entity occupying the text finds that they are severely limited by the circumstances that they have been born into.

The gastro-pastoral is my attempt to form this relationship between subject (reader) and object (text) in a way that one might not necessarily expect. I think there is something sympathetic about seeing an object that—at least to some extent—resembles a person. In literature, this tends to be done by creating projections of people within a book’s narrative arc. But, I don’t think this interaction is necessarily honest or engaging. The reader is always standing at a distance. They are always just an observer.

The intentions of the gastro-pastoral are to create a more visceral relationship between subject and object. To show that the latter might contain the same grotesque interior as the former. A bond forms when you see that the book is just as capable of bleeding and vomiting as you are.

Not only this, but that the text is aware of you. It is reaching out and attempting to interact. It is a conscious interface. Forming neural structures as much as it is muscle or fat.

JR: If you are thinking of the book as a series of connected and sometimes incompatible organs, how do you see the connective tissue between books and the fibers that hold them all together?

 MC: I think that each book is capable of containing portals that lead to other books. I often feel like I’m working with a very limited set of tools and seeing how many different configurations / uses I can get out of them.

Certain specific phrases and names appear throughout my work. Phrases like, “Have you read the Wittgenstein?” or “Christ will you look at that.” appear in both Gut Text and Smut-Maker. Characters like Asterion and the Hundred Headless Woman appear in Gut Text, Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede, Smut-Maker, Avian Funeral March.

I think to an extent I am interested in the idea of the shared universe, that all of these textual anomalies might exist in the same place. Or in close proximity to one another. And that they might be infecting one another with these mutative vocabularies.

In the most concrete sense, this shared language is the fibre that connects each book to the others. In a more abstract sense, there is this shared concern with the agency of the text and our relationship to it.

There is a certain labor involved in reading. This kind of navigational labor / interrogative labor. Where the reader must move through the content and form of the project. I think these portals are an extension of that labor, creating a navigation between the organs within a body of work so to speak.

In another sense though, there are portals that reach out from my work to the works that I’m engaging with while writing them. Smut-Maker was heavily inspired by Roberto Bolano’s Antwerp (originally utilizing the “text” … “text” … “text” structure he used in that). The language itself pulls from Nina Leger, Deleuze and Guattari, M Kitchell, as well as many other sources.

JR: This discussion of your body of work as a series of portals between texts and readers echoes a lot of the discussions in early electronic literature and hypertexts. There seems to be some sort of post-synthetic materiality emerging in your work. How do you see these more organic metaphors in relation to digital environments?

MC: It is difficult to delineate material and virtual zones. The digital is such an integrated part of at least my own existence. I spend a lot of my time on the internet, or looking at things that were made using the internet.

I’ve experimented a bit with electronic literature. I’ve made a few text-based interactive fictions, a few very small games, and a machine-written book (release forever pending haha). I think that the digital is alluring in its unknowability. It resembles the occult in its ability to operate outside of understanding. In the same way that you cannot interpret the behaviors of a demon, you cannot predict the knowledge that might form during the process of machine learning.

There is this idea of digitizing the occult, of utilizing this unknowable randomness, and I’m very drawn towards that. I imagine a text for bibliomancy in which its function becomes more potent because it does not have any meaning already projected onto it. It is written by an author who is not writing, but simply assembling variables within the given constraints.

But I don’t think that the digital must necessarily be mechanical or more specifically inorganic. Thinking here of the cybernetic, I want to find the text in a place that is between organic and inorganic. I want it to simultaneously resemble me and be completely foreign.

JR: I want to linger a bit longer with this idea of the text portal. You mentioned that you are pulling language from other texts and letting your own reading bleed into your writing. What does this process actually look like? The influence and appropriation are somewhat commonplace at this point, but I am interested in the specifics of how bits of text move from someone else’s text into yours? Are you guiding this process or does this tie back to your idea of bibliomancy?

MC: I think it is primarily a process of consumption and regurgitation. Taking in various forms of media and letting certain passages / images rise to the surface while I’m writing. This natural relationship between memory and movement is a function within the flow of writing.

Often when I’m stuck I’ll use bibliomancy-—opening something like Ed Atkins or M Kitchell or Joyelle McSweeney and seeing what might trigger another set of images / ideas.

I work best with abrasive audio playing. Most often it’s music. But other times, it might be a video about how to cut every fruit or Japanese playthroughs of Hylics.

The primary goal is to let these portals happen naturally. I think there is an aesthetic value in chaos, or more specifically, in overwhelming or unanchored data. Knowledge disconnected from its source. You don’t know where it came from. Or what it’s true purpose / intentions might be. It’s just another variable in the wall of information.

It gives the text this existence and vitality beyond the author. It removes me from this overplayed authorial position and creates a text that–to a certain extent–is unknown to me as well.

JR: Will you describe the ‘how to cut every fruit’ video? This sounds great.

 MC: I don’t remember the channel. It might have been Bon Appetit. But it’s just this forty-five or so minute video of this chef from the Institute of Culinary Education processing probably like fifty or so different fruits. It has a lot of these great snippets that I’ve worked into pieces as I’ve been listening to it. These lines that are ambiguous when stripped from the surrounding video. Stuff like This was the fruit of the garden of Eden or It should have that nice kind of pink blush on the inside. There’s another one they’ve made about how to cut every vegetable which I’m tempted to use as well…

JR: These are videos? Do you watch them as you work or only listen? Are you interested in the language or the general ambient vibes of the audio?

MC: I usually just play them in another tab. Or sometimes I might do side-by-side windows if what I’m writing isn’t too design intensive. The audio is the thing that I find most useful though. I like transplanting this utilitarian language—what people say when the primary goal is just to convey information—into the often theory-dense and esoteric work that I put together. I find it especially interesting in a work when it can be taken and contorted into something new—a phrase or word that can create new pathways within a text.

JR: Can you say more about how you would define the ‘overplayed’ authorial position. I am similarly suspicious of this position, but also produce in excess. Do you have an alternative to this formulation? How do you consider your relationship to your texts once they leave your hands?

MC: The author is often positioned as the ‘master’ behind this intricately and completely intentionally formulated text. They are seen as this micro-deity who can bend language in any which way to form this narrative that they are in complete control of. It seems like a lot of people find this engaging, but more interesting to me, I think, is the idea of the text being able to formulate its own meanings / traits / qualities. When an author has such a tight grasp on a work, it doesn’t allow for glitches, as you’ve mentioned before. It doesn’t allow for these moments of randomness and uncanniness, the other, to appear. And I think the result of this tends to be a work that is so clearly human in origin. I want to create work that feels like it is of its own identity.

I like the Homeric idea of evoking the muses. That something passes through you to create the text. Not necessarily something divine, but something unconscious. The portals as this thread of connections woven by this something. Often when I read one of my books after it’s been published, I don’t feel like the author. I feel like a well-informed reader. Like I know the intentions and desires of the project, but that I was not the one who created it.

JR: You’ve discussed the labor of reading, and briefly engaged the labor of writing, but I want to ask about the labor of publishing—specifically considering its relation to these ideas around a distributed/fragmented authorship. How do you think of the publishing process within this net-work of entanglement?

MC: Thus far I’ve only worked with small presses. The process has largely varied from place to place. With Orson’s Publishing and 11:11 Press, I was largely in control of the design and layout of the book. I was arranging each page of the text. With 11:11 I was getting a lot of encouragement to play with various formal elements in Gut Text. And recently with SMUT-MAKER, John Trefry (Inside the Castle) took on the design process almost entirely on his own. For that one I only designed two pages really, as well as the wallpaper pattern that pops in the front and back matter. In those cases, the authorial position is further muddled. It takes on the aesthetics—to varying degrees—of the publishers and editors. SMUT-MAKER with and without John Trefry are entirely different books. Gut Text without the influence of 11:11 is an entirely different book. The publishing process is, ideally, a further obscuring of the author’s position (authorial obfuscation). Fracturing further this idea(l) of the lone artist orchestrating whatever opus.

JR: These texts seem to live between your body, the texts you read, your editors/publishers, and some virtual space that bleeds in. Do you see these all as symbiotic or parasitic relations? Is something feeding off the production of these texts? Is there a gut intelligence?

MC: I like to think that they are symbiotic relationships (at least between myself and the editors / publishers). But for the text itself, I’m not sure. It is the surface on which everything is projected onto–the host-body. I’m very much interested in this idea of the text as something independent of the author and the reader. In Rituals Performed in the Absence of Ganymede, the text is outwardly malicious and mocks / dominates the reader.

I think of it as an object-of-power. This weird artifact imbued with meaning. I am sure a certain gut intelligence comes as the result of this. Something can only remain inanimate for so long. For now, I’m worried that I might be the one feeding off of the production of these books. Taking any praise or income that they might attract for myself and leaving nothing for the text.

JR: The materiality of the book as an object— something you can touch and hold, that sits in a room, has particular dimensions, a thickness and weight—seems really important to your work. There is also a clear attention to digital forms of textuality that operates in these physical objects. How do you think of the friction between producing works in the digital and their final printed form? Why are these books printed? What is the difference between the PDF and the printed text?

 MC: I’m fascinated by the idea of the book as this object that you’re capable of interacting with physically. There’s of course the action of the user reading the text on the page, but also I’ve been interested in other methods of interfacing.

Vi Khi Nao and Ali Raz’s Human Tetris for example has all of the text laid out sideways, forcing the reader to either turn their head or the book. Grant Maierhofer’s Peripatet has text that runs across the gutter, with the reader prying the book apart to see what’s inside. I like this idea of having to manipulate the object. Or having to work it like a tool / instrument. It has to be handled a certain way. With Smut-Maker it’s a matter of forcing the eyes to move in unconventional ways. It encourages a kind of surveying rather than reading. It promotes a non-linearity within the reader.

I think of the digital and the textual as existing under this shared umbrella of the virtual. Both are fabrications made through non-natural processes. They’re both human-created environments.

So the transition of the digital to the textual (with the text being written and designed using digital programs and discussing at times uniquely digital experiences), I think of it as movement between points on the same line. I’m interested in the shared qualities between these zones. With the text being a kind of constrained / physically-rendered iteration of the digital. To an extent, I think the digital has a much more dramatic potential. The text is this realized version of the digital’s often either utopian or apocalyptic qualities.

Some of the work I’ve made, though, is created with the intention of its existing exclusively in a digital space. And I do my best to utilize the potentials of that medium. With interactive projects like LEAR-MACHINE or BODIES LIKE MEAT, I wanted to explore the action of moving through hyperlinks and utilizing probability functions. With a PDF-oriented piece like SPELUNKER I wanted to explore how a static language could function without feeling stagnant. That piece in particular I formatted on square black pages so that it wouldn’t strain the user’s eyes, and so that each page could be viewed in full on both desktops and mobile.

I approach both mediums beginning with the same intention: how do I utilize a virtual text in a way that requires it to exist in its medium? I think this is especially important now with online experiences being so ubiquitous. The act of scrolling and clicking feels like a mechanical necessity in online reading / writing.

JR: In your engagement with the embodied form of the book, I’m really interested in your thoughts on the necessity of organs, as you mentioned earlier, or lack thereof (BwO). Does a book need a stomach or skin? What about the spine? I like to imagine this spineless book as a possible format for your work. Do you have any thoughts on reimagining the physical form? Maybe another way to ask this more directly/plainly—what are books?

MC: It’s good that books are not human. It allows them to exist with any combination of organs. It allows for the easy removal / replacement of vestigial ones. I can make a book that is only the stomach—a pool of acid—or one that is a collage of vertebrae. Or an empty cavity—somewhere organs used to be. I think each of these iterations has their own use / characteristics / potentialities. Ideally, each book is made from a different arrangement of organs.

I think you’re right in considering my work as spineless haha. There is no column holding the body upright. It is a puddle of mush. Something to be waded through.

In terms of the composition of the object itself. I think there is still a lot to be explored. I’m interested to see a more literal spineless work. Something without stable binding or varying page dimensions, a sandpaper book jacket (i.e. Debord). I’d like to explore these kinds of variations on the user-experience for lack of a better term. Something that demands a different kind of engagement / interaction.

 

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWERS / INTERVIEWEES

JAKE REBER is a writer and artist.  He is a co-curator of Hysterically Real and an editor for Recreational Resources. He has published several artist books and experimental projects, including Invasive Species (Void Front Press, 2019), Bureaucratic Topologies (Gauss-PDF, 2018), and Lobster Genesis (Orworse Press, 2016), among others. His newest book, ZER000 EXCESS will be released on Oct. 27th 2020 with 11:11 Press.

MIKE CORRAO is the author of two novels, MAN, OH MAN (Orson’s Publishing) and GUT TEXT (11:11 Press); one book of poetry, TWO NOVELS (Orson’s Publishing); two plays, SMUT-MAKER (Inside the Castle) and ANDROMEDUSA (Forthcoming – Plays Inverse); and two chapbooks, AVIAN FUNERAL MARCH (Self-Fuck) and SPELUNKER (Schism – Neuronics). Along with earning multiple Best of the Net nominations, Mike’s work has been featured in publications such as 3:AM, Collagist, Always Crashing, and The Portland Review. His work often explores the haptic, architectural, and organismal qualities of the text-object. He lives in Minneapolis.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, September 14th, 2020.