Individual Work
Up Against the Screen Mother Fuckers

This entry taken from the ELO Showcase curator statement by Joseph Tabbi.

Katko’s title invokes the “late 60s anarchist affinity group, Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers, and the author says he was “inspired by their dramatic final exploit: cutting open the fences at Woodstock.” Andrew Norman Wilson’s “Workers Leaving the Googleplex” recalls an earlier act of media subversion (at the very birth of the cinema): the Lumiere Brothers’ “Workers Leaving the Factory.” Wilson’s title also references his own firing by Google when he, a ‘red badge’ employee, sought to interview the “yellow badge” workers across from the Google campus in Mountain View, California – the ones without Wilson’s education or corporate access (to bikes, luxury limo shuttles, free gourmet meals, backpacks, mobile devices, thumb drives), the “Code Ops” who were busy doing manual, strictly data entry assignments, the scanning of print books from a U.S. public library into a proprietary database. Wilson’s title, like Katko’s, recalls how earlier representational media, for a while at least, could critique the informational and societal enclosures that media themselves are always creating. The combination (and enactment) of literary and political memory can be said to characterize a movement in electronic literature, consistent with the commitment to mayhem and ethos of "motherfuckery" that one finds in hacker groups such as Anonymous. (See Gabriella Coleman, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. Verso 2014.)

It should not be surprising that e-lit authors invoke past avant-gardes, given the overwhelming presence and controlling power of screens, enclosures, and interfaces to databases whose content, the same as it ever was, is now no longer accessible without digital mediation. Nor is it accidental that so many literary works are generated by accidents; that the crossing of boundaries has also redirected the course of an author’s personal career. In the case of “Up Against the Screen,” the work was created (in Katko's account) “involuntarily during the attempt to instantiate the power of those very screens, in this case the 3D simulations of the Cave environment. Abrasive, abstract, even annoying, its rainbow cones are in fact digital letterforms broken to their core components of pixel/vertex and color. The protagonist who stares numbly into one of the Cave screens implicates the viewer as a drone hypnotized before our never-arriving future.” Katko participates in an e-lit movement that is as much aware of its roots in the literary avant-garde, as it is aware of the politics of digital media which do not represent so much as they determine our current situation.

Author statement: 
The poem is an abstract rendition of the rotten silk that fetters us people to these our awful screens. The graphics were generated in the CAVE writing text editor, by taking an ill-performing video screen capture of a spectral tube of "O"s in the editor's desktop preview mode. The audio was separately generated by improvisations into a Max/MSP patch. The title is after the late 60s anarchist affinity group, Up Against the Wall Mother Fuckers. I was inspired by their dramatic final exploit: cutting open the fences at Woodstock. The phrase Up Against the Screen Mother Fuckers started as the title for a CAVE piece, in which one thousand units of the people would enter the CAVE and break through its 4 screens to the vestibule holding the mirrors behind it. (via ELC2) See also the author's <a href="">website</a>.