The Uncontrollable Issue


Uncontrollable apparitions, texts, talks, feelings, incidents. Confront or embrace the uncontrollable, make uncontrollable detours, start addressing all (un)controllable things with wit.

See how the uncontrollable operates in the fascinating works of Emanuela Bianchi, Maria Damon, Alan Sondheim, Mez Breeze, Clive Gresswell, Jane Joritz-Nakagawa, Aadityakrishna Sathish, Olivia Cronk & Philip Sorenson, Matt Schumacher, Christine Stoddard, and Florence Sunnen.

Nemesis is a collaborative work by Emanuela Bianchi, Maria Damon, and Alan Sondheim: “Alan (whom I’ve known since about 1996 when I first encountered his writing online) and I have written several other collaborations. He had been reading about Nemesis’s origins as the goddess of retribution, and proposed that for our next project we write about her. I was all for it. Alan started us off by quoting sections of source material. I responded by elaborating in a more fanciful, lyrical way, and then Alan chopped up the writing by various means: deleting a vowel, subjecting the text to various computer commands, etc. We go back and forth. I mentioned the collaboration to Emanuela Bianchi, who sent me a paragraph she had recently written on the genesis of Nemesis, and Alan and I were so taken with it that we included it as our epigraph. Alan and I share a taste for texts that careen out of control and he has many excellent techniques for making that happen.”

A very bizarre 1987 pirating incident inspired Olivia Cronk & Philip Sorenson to write a “critical/lyric essay” about “faces, transmission, infection, interruption, abrasion, intrusion, translation, similes, meaning, television, inscription, mirrors as anti-allegory, time travel.”

Matt Schumacher’s prose poems/dreams of Thomas De Quincey “contain kennings, drug-world slang, archaic language from the 1800s, and neologisms.”

Furthermore this hybrid uncontrollable narrative includes (visual) poems, photos, digital fiction, things to cherish, and share. Many thanks to all contributors for their bold, unconventional works. Now enjoy.

Dimitra Ioannou

Emanuela Bianchi, Maria Damon, Alan Sondheim


In the mythical genealogy of Hesiod’s Theogony maternal fecundity is primordial, and yet always remains marked by a certain obscurity. As Nicole Loraux observes, two mothers, Gaia and Night, are daughters of Chaos, the primordial cleft or gap. Night, “aware of nothing but division gave birth – without love – by fission only – to progeny encompassing everything negative in the Greek imagination.” The offspring of Gaia are all the gods, mostly born from a male and female parent, with their active, masculine rivalries, hatreds, and violences, exemplified by the castration of Ouranos by Kronos, and the eventual victory of Zeus over all. Night, on the other hand, will give birth to plural groups of feminine goddess (Hesperides, Fates, Keres, Nereides, Oceanides, Horae, Charites) as well as the well-known abstractions, such as Doom, Death, Age, Nemesis, and Strife. Further, “Strife bore painful Toil and Forgetfulness and Famine and tearful Sorrows, Fightings also, Battles, Murders, Manslaughters, Quarrels, Lying Words, Disputes, Lawlessness and Ruin, all of one nature, and Oath who most troubles men upon earth when anyone willfully swears a false oath.” This propensity for self-splitting is thus rendered an obscure and relentless rumble, an evil and awesomely powerful function, characteristic of a particularly feminine side of genos which masculine, paternal genos must take as its singular duty to subjugate.
Emanuela Bianchi, “Genos Between Nature and Power.”

less _a_.

and less an
incident, becuse of her feelings nemesis (o my private goddess of private emptiness), righteous hincident, bec use hve been h ve inst enemies –my enemies with their breath sweetened with the cloying toxicity of imagined sincerity) pst ted by, the resurgence Atheni st nd n g t outset Peloponnesin Wn W Wr. By brokenness fore and aft, left and right, high and low, by emptiness and brokenness in the starry night 
fifth century r. present, by cant of darkness, depth of kettlehole murk. We all imagine truth; none imagine truth looms.Femina factora, Nemesis weaves truth on her four swords. She constructs a loom of them, warps it and weaves from the lies told by the male gods; she turns their breath-lines into the thinnest thread and makes a gauze of truth. This gauze, when held against the sun, shows a rainbow.

less an incident, than the failure of truth.

The eyes of e, the I of is. The meting of what is owed. Pleased to mete you your measure of metre, of verse, of tears, to turn you into a vessel of wet salt grief. somewhere down there, CHITON is thinking, i’m glad i’m here, i’m glad i’m in the salt walk of the deep byte, maybe i’ll survive, i’ve done it for 10s of 1,000,000s of years, maybe 100s, i don’t want you anywhere near me, nemesis is your business, your impropriety, not mine. go away, i’m grazing rock.

N of negation, M of ocean, S of the deep bite. Corrosion of karmic tumble, over and over, in the salt waves, dashed against the wet sand with repeated vigor. Hurl, and hurl, splattered again. (here the chiton emerges, Cryptochitonstelleri,the giant western and fiery chiton, the platelets, almost trilobitic, monolobotic, holdfast against the splattering, against Nemesis Aura Auracular, Dear Maria, I will not close these parentheses!

Aura Auracular, the breath of speech, the gold of guile. She comes for you, blasting your face with the heat of her gaze.

Around her supple ample dimple body she wears a chiton woven of spun gold, which she bartered from the Fates in exchange for the souls of a few dozen lying men. Aura Auracular, Azure Abomination Nemesis stands upon two giant western fiery chitons, Gumboot and Meatloaf, as they graze the rocks for food. She is half submerged, half hovering above the sea in her motherly wrath. You can see her from a great distance in her billowing shimmering dimpling gold robe.

Nemesis, supreme in her negation of all supremacy, s deserved.[cittion needed] Ld come to me tion Lter, wh ter, w her laughter of whipped fawns and her smile of avenging radiance,
“to give wht is due”,[2] from Proto-Indo-Europet
Proto-Indo-Europe Proto-Indo-Europen nem- c rnessed rcing Grypes
obstinte enemy Aur cing . She, oh flowing liquid honey of melody, te d hd hrnessed r (Griffins)
newly spun robe, gold spun of molten honey, of melody, of stinging nettles, of thistle-down, ge;

to live under a shadow of pleasure. the avenging gun-toter. the slung noose of inevitability.slung lungs, where Chiton lives, now a name for this particular chiton, of which one forms all proper names:

the proper name of the is The.
The proper name of proper is Proper.
The proper name of nemesis is Nemesis.
The proper name of alan is Alan.
The proper name of of is Of.
for which we have Chiton to thank:
The proper name of chiton is Chiton.

She Who breaks the Aura, She Who divides; / ;

She who she who she who breathes at your neckhairs.
she who she who she who reaches for your belt,
she who she who she who undoes your sandal-laces,
she who she who she who trips you in the sand
she who she who she who carves her fate into your skin

then you lso hthe cestus, the following Colossus on his knees hustling clumsily after her, flogged m rri no
then you isolate the censorious overlords, pin them to their sharp words with their sharp tongues and your own sharp swords, all four of them, right through their heartless hearts
fer, for Aurto bl r, your deceitful sleep woods; your heart of Chiton;

Aura Auratic who breaks the digital bonds, creates Shadow,
She Who obscures;

deceitful in your abjection, but not so our divine Nemesis, she who walks on skulls to get to heaven, she who lifts up the abjected maids violated over and over by Zeus, Apollo, Ares.

Apollopes, Sears Ares; Aura Oracular’s Memesis, swollen and dim minds.
So he says, you’re saying that she’s saying that no one remembers their mind? No one, she replied through you. Mary and Todd said that’s where imagination comes from, from Lincoln’s logs and files, already hacked:

res Nemesis below blows your mind when you’re looking away from the horror: mend mesurement – constitution surement more than you can handle, and certainly more than you can imagine. 
H shdowy ttributes dowy digit l, this or with word, pregnant with word, but word and with shadow, pregnant with word and with shadow, casting her long lines across the city, the long lines raying out from her navel, where she stands at the center of the city, in the shadows of the word, her belly bulging, gives birth to Legion.

The Gatha of Legion:
The Improper Name of The is the.
the Improper Name of Gatha is gatha.
the Improper Name of of is of.
the Improper Name of Legion is legion.

Too hot, too hot, too hot panting in pluribus Onan, Nemesis sees your every doubled move in her many eyes, reflected in her poly-prismatic swords, so many of you, miniaturized, doing that shame thing, many times multiplied, doing that thing, she will give you your justice

will give you your Justice, just as Justice is legion, con-fined, among the nemeses of Nemesis, con-founded:

My name is Legion. I shall conquer Nemesis. I shall release Aura Auratic. No one can help being really terrific, AA comes with so many depth! To see her is to love her fantastic fast! She is so much good goodess!

good goddess tht Nemesis, vert whom,Nemesis? Wh ding wrns us by 
cubit-rule rns bridle neither do dre known (Retribution)
tribulations and tintinnabulations, raining on the city in the sight of Nemesis, trials for the worthy, the hypocrites and the major dons of the republic, their days are numbered and not so plentiful.
Discussion: ped fther Zeus, gseventh century: ther gve fter she
chnging, which only mentioned in Kyprich nging, Kypri, Kypri,
worshipped personified, seemingly different Personified rt
literture building does not ture temple ppe Attic
Why would a father rape his own daughter? why would he try to prevent her changing into a goddess, who brings retribution to all those wronged by harsh lust? Why would anyone do anything in these harsh times? Why, Improper chiton, is anyone capable, cap-able, in these yet harsher times?

Rhmnous 470s, chronology cult stmnous mnous sttue tue Pheidis
mni mde s, who expl de ins th plusibly usibly ttributed out The
rtilly role lly re identified p Helens mother ws entirely
forgotten over PersiHelens Persins, Persi ns, bse se context
story Helen [2], hs now politics politic politicl identity into
l Rh Rhmnous. bringing either mrricult ge mnous. Menelos [3].
Here joined severto Menel os severl other opposite side sever
se. here most implcc cble ble v
when is new politics of retribution going to rise in the east like our radiant Nemesis, our Name is Us, our Is Is Is of half-spoken aspiration?

Aswirl in a soup of incantatory words, we reach for a non-ground of non-being, hoping in non-hope for a survival of some small grain of embodiment. We fear we are drowning in crazed floods of language.
We say, precisely as follows, We See No Sign Of god, No Sign Of nemesis, all sign of Chiton, of which We Say:

chiton is the proper name of Chiton.
Chiton is the improper name of chiton.

NM, Nemesis-Memesis another meme. Memes are half-spoken, abject when they’re dressed. NM and AA love each other; AA says, “That’s sure more than a meme!” Right now it’s dark outside, furious storm, thunder coming. The gods are saying I’m right as rain! Men think they’re deities, AA, Abigail Aubergine knows otherwise, says deity men violence, the It/d. deity men violence. It/d [1.33.3] Of rble Peidi Nemesis. [1.33.7]
Neither nor ny ncient wings they Love. I ce ske cleke cle ke
clerness. Your protective wings of shadow and silk.
Greeks rness. will go onto describe pref he hy
represented being led Led originlly meNemesis origin ment
distributor fortune, resentment”
alchemized into clean steel-gold action.
From nt rd, In Greek trs tr
trgedies gedies fourth onw ppevenger some met ppers chiefly
physic venger metphysicppe physicl mythology, rs ys egg
discovered void bird form respected goddess, brought much sorrow
Boeotid BoeotiBoeoti BoudicaBoudiccaBoadicea furybody of
transcontinental colonization, subaltern rising to the elliptical top,
She of thegold lace and steel glides forward into the center of the fire, She calls on the dead to avenge the living. (The Greeks say, they’re in the EU, they’re tired of nasty family dramas chewing up everyone, women brutalized, there’s no excuse for that. The Greeks say, they know better, the drachma dolmas, doldrums dolorosa. The Greeks drag us into the 21st century. They say look at your usa, we have usG for many times now. Your usa has nasty family dramas.
No muses for you, usa! all art will ebb, all evil flood. Our Nemesis is beauty inverted. She’ll take your gold and good riddance!

AA, Azure Antigone, agrees. Devoid of scalars, improper Fractions, names. myths and ruptures repeat repulsive relatives’ recallings, rehearsed, reversed – reverance required, reality relinquished… immeasurable, infinite, incomparable, incommensurable, immoderate, immodest, immolating, impish…

Although too bore ffliction believed one should ever th”
(Theogony, 223, though perhps ps mort ls subject line). As
“Goddess Rhmnous”, wmnous”, mnous”, poet Mesomedes wrote hymn
honored pl rk-fced e”Nemesis, winged b ced erly times rly ncer
life, representtions resembled Aphrodite, sometimes berepresent
tions bers be epithet nme relepithet relted nmein, rel rticulrly
concerned mme mtters love. ning. myth tters sprung up ground? Myth mother on sprung ground, epithets hanging from her shoulders, mossy with froth, swaying as she trudges

All the numbers spell out a future that falls through a space in the cosmos.
All the letters gather together and ask please do not make such a mess.
chiton Calls Them Out, The Recounting Of Nemesis:

[Nemesis recounts rncient rce Typhoeus dTit ughter Phrygi. With
equns) [i.e. equl speed (the Unvoidsteivoidble) [Nemesis]
pursued Argive
venomous hymns to no avail. a tiny reticule opens to reveal a blinding light that devours all guilt. Aura Argive Absolved Absolutely Astonishing, All Animals And Androids Amazingly Absconding, Astounded! Adrble) stei let whip l[Nemesis] lter seduced Zeus], ter ck
snowbeten Tprep ten Turos red uros nother love flew nd] sid sves
id until ves ched [ Tit nes (T (Turus) urus) snowbe
an ice palace where evil is allowed to pretend it’s in ascendancy… snowbeaten paths attract all malfeasers… and Nemesis seals the door on them.

AA says Hello. And ZZZZ of the Four-Sworded Loom says Goodbye!! Goodbye!! Goodbye!! Goodbye!!


slung lungs.


Emanuela Bianchi is a philosopher and assistant professor of comparative literature at New York University, who works at the intersection of Ancient Greek philosophy and literature, feminist/queer theory, and contemporary continental philosophy. She is the author of The Feminine Symptom: Aleatory Matter in the Aristotelian Cosmos (Fordham, 2014), co-editor (with Sara Brill and Brooke Holmes) of Antiquities Beyond Humanism (Oxford, forthcoming 2018), and has written numerous articles in journals including Hypatia, The Yearbook of Comparative Literature, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal, Philosophy Today, Epochê, and Angelaki. She is currently at work on a manuscript provisionally entitled “Emergence and Concealment: Nature, Hegemony, Kinship.”

Maria Damon teaches poetry and poetics at the Pratt Institute of Art. She is the author of two books of poetry scholarship; co-author (with mIEKAL aND, Alan Sondheim, Adeena Karasick, and Jukka-Pekka Kervinen) of several books of poetry; co-editor (with Ira Livingston) of Poetry and Cultural Studies: A Reader; and author of two cross-stitch visual poetry chapbooks, Meshwards and XXX.

Alan Sondheim is a Providence-based new media artist, musician, writer, and performer concerned with issues of virtuality, and the stake that the real world has in the virtual. He’s busy writing codework and theory at the moment, along with some new cds, shows, and videos on the way. His work can be accessed here:

Mez Breeze

Our Cupidity Coda

Please click here to watch: Our Cupidity Coda

Description: The meat of the project is a set of poetic texts interspersed with 360 illustrative stills. The work is deliberately designed to partially echo the conventions from early film-making days (including no audio), making a viewer focus on text inserts, which are contrasted with having to move (turn in the 360 VR space) and view the 360 tableaus (a reflection of the theme underlying the work) to engage fully with the 360 illustration sections.

Our Cupidity Coda is designed for viewing on any mobile phone and is designed for (initial) quick sharp consumption, then repeat plays for those with which it resonates. It’s designed for viewing as a 360 video through a URL on most mobile devices and/or desktops/tablets VR headsets (recommended is viewing through a Vive setup via a 360 viewer such as Virtual Desktop or the latest version of the Mozilla Firefox browser). Our Cupidity Coda was built from a desire to encourage repeat viewing, to play through the experience several times in order to unstitch the poetic denseness of the minimal text, and to absorb and process the 360 visuals. It’s a slow-burn work for those that click with it.

Mez Breeze’s award-winning creations have helped shape digital fiction for over two decades. “#PRISOM”, her anti-surveillance game created with Andy Campbell and produced for The 2013 International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality , is “…the digital equivalent of Orwell’s 1984” (according to James O’Sullivan). Mez is a Coproducer, Creative Director and Lead Interactive Writer of the “Inanimate Alice: Perpetual Nomads” Virtual Reality/Novel Series, co-creator of All the Delicate Duplicates, Advisor to The Mixed Augmented Reality Art Research Organisation, and is currently developing a comprehensive career archive with Duke University.

Clive Gresswell

Film by Greta Zabulyte

Clive Gresswell is a 59-year-old London-based poet who comes out of the Writers Forum Workshop (New Series) based in Shoreditch and who did his innovative poetry MA at the University of Bedfordshire. He has been published in BlazeVOX, LondonGrip and Tears in The Fence and is due for publication on Dispatches and Adjacent Pineapple. Meanwhile he is trying to do more London readings and was recently a guest reader at the international Tears in The Fence Poetry Festival. His first collection, Jargon Busters, from which these poems come, was recently published by the innovative Knives, Forks and Spoons Press.


Jane Joritz-Nakagawa

plan b audio five

a portmanteau of crimes
committed on the bodies of
laborers.  too confused
to properly track their prey. my
face leaves.  because it’s high
and the sky is crowded. because
paulownia.  my arm is scarred
and sticks out against the
dark. because i am the
background.  because soon
animals will be eaten.  the
laborers did not revolt.  their
bodies were not revolting.   i
don’t like either side.  contradictory
fashion for laborers, for
animals. my face is willing.
a room filled yet empty.  the
background is financial.  a
broken sky is evidence. of winter,
of paulownia.  the identity of
nets catching invisible prey.  the
stupor of it, of revolts in broken
winter, where belabored bodies are the
background of solitude and
happenstance.  the illusion of
logic may heal the mind but
today the ramparts are possessed
by feeling and panoramic huts. each
breath savored for its effort.   every
awkward step.   for the sake of.
discussion.  dissolving into
beams of frenzied impossible
yearning.  through wickets
of doldrum and bureaucratic
spoils.   seaweed-like.
in small pieces.

plan b audio six

liquid determination
a disappearing door
the gardener enters
to tend to the fields of my crotch
decaying quivering
raking the leaves
creating odd potholes for driverless cars
in an era of exits

plan b audio seven

greying sky
what forces the mountains
to hide behind the clouds

above the planet
in the mind
a river of blue veins

a deep snow
falling elsewhere
how naked i’ve become

why does death
seep from my pores
cleaning the air of its stupor

near a pond
a body on a road
as if replaced

suffocated by sight
the “e” is silent
so must i be

my chewed vagina
a vanishing self
former namesake

fallen tree
looking diseased
pains me thoroughly

cutting through memory
broken water
sounding dead

long range missile
alternative truth
scrap metal

a gloomy oak tree
pinned to a wall
vast solitude

something like a person
a lucid cave
humble in its theater

free flowing doldrums
a drum of pink water
dull on my skin

a stationary wind
stepping beyond
a horizon of objects

bees atop flowers
perfumes in springtime
my greedy vulva

folded yukata
blue and white on tatami
large holes in the shoji

dead science of understanding
forming a sinkhole
sliver of grief

full of enemy corpses
on a street
aligned with nothing

another valley
without land
of the rocky spur

beyond the garden
row of visitors
smell of death

beard and tuxedo
on the television set
teeth like a dinosaur

entering the hospital
X-ray on a screen
shop of horrors

man with a hacking cough
it must be cancer
private thought

patient attached to a machine
her pallid face
thin and scared

rustling of uniforms
a beeper goes off
the sound of dying

heavy rain
plum blossoms on concrete
bar code on my wrist

too much whiskey
a face resembling
a crumpled sheet

lavender gloves on a table
pink curtain
embraces a dirty window

small intestine of trees
looks out over a great
expanse of burnt skin

each beginning an ending
marching orders
false embrace

ulnar nerve
knife through the heart
life of language

old fable
long gone
my empty uterus

in a world of mistranslation
reporting every blunder
the eldest maiko leaves home at sunset

to all appearances a human being
tossed aside
in eerie pennsylvania

plan b audio two

Impossible collapsing dialogues evict
My shadow, iconic falsity.  Optical
favors for driven
geese.  To shred
armor for fun,
reason the house
into cherubic slumber falling
over rotting apple trees.  Processes
in nature:  to dream
every disaster into sludge,
to translate movement into
taxes.  Vanishing
paragraphs traverse faster than
mire.  You’re a winner every
time.  Stopping to shatter
sleep into stuttering.  A breath
missed.  Next
door the moon melts
into ash splayed over oceans.  Backwash
implements mark the time when reaching
was my only failure.  I’d tolerate
other art forms if
they didn’t disable my back.  Future
hospital bills fit into two line
stanzas.  But the care
wasted on random smell won’t wash
in next year’s electoral
debate.  Murmuring my
favorite secret programs
are several special enemies
of state.  To recover one’s
proper place.  Substitute
influences vie for golden
landings.  My line
endings and spacings mash
potatoes.  Frivolous
collaborations resonate in
coincidental indiscretions and safety
determinations.  On fiery imaginary
planets.  Touching my hair
where it turns to mesh.  An
endless graphite spiral.  My
limbs against a widening
white tree.  A flag is stinky
proof of something.  Anxiety
is destiny on every
rooftop guarded by the
sickness police.  Surrounded
by a strange country.  Or found
in.  Pleats
of a bright room.


why not swoon if lavender mood         golf caddy ever-bending fellow acne daffodil riot mirrored casing subdural brake         linen moss untrimmed profile albino idea leaning of       strapped to depths of my nest                     mute soliloquy

Jane Joritz-Nakagawa‘s ninth book of poetry, <<terrain grammar>>, is forthcoming with theenk Books as is an anthology she edited titled women : poetry : migration [an anthology].

Aadityakrishna Sathish

Hong Kong is a city, like many others, where buildings reign over people. Life is predictable to the extent that some rich man is always going to have food on his plate (to be more precise, 8 small plates that would cost the same as what we pay for rent every month). You might get a promotion the year after—but hey—you might not. You might end up working the same job for 8 years without a raise.

Everyday life at the level of the economy is predictable. Like in many other places, the wolves of Wall Street (or we would say here, Central District) have swallowed the excitement whole. Then, what is left, is what some would call the “remainder life” or in other words, the weekend. Eating together as a family is a rare instance; it’s either too much of a bother to eat together as the table is too small to accommodate the four of us, or we are not present at the same time (my father proudly says he is on the clock 24/7). Then, the aspects of our lives that become unpredictable, uncontrollable, are precisely those moments that subtend work, office, paychecks, promotions: they are the building blocks of life as we know it.

Family time is radical.

There is no weekly Sunday dinner, and as such, every dinner together becomes relevant. A silence dwells here that allows for the unknown to erupt; we see a moment of familiar unfamiliarity; the teleology that work life promises becomes undone because of the danger of such moment—the danger of not-knowing, of being a family—of being together. What I have said so far illustrates the theme in the photos of my family members.

The photo that connects what I have said so far with the building material is titled “God.” The buildings that propel, consume and consume to propel the dreams of MNCs, the wolves of wall street, the CEOs, have their building blocks as well. There is “rubbish” and “waste” that is often forgotten about; these are often an “eyesore” for those that live in the neighborhood, but they are precisely where moments of the uncontrollable dwell. Here lies the question of life and death, as workers inhabit unsafe conditions to exponentially multiply the income of those that are to occupy the buildings after construction. I wanted to capture those moments of danger, excess, and suffocation.

These are pictures from a series that I call “Market Stories.” They offer a different version of Hong Kong, one that is located in the bustling, loud wet markets. These stories breach into the story that the cityscape tells. The pictures offer an uncontrollable narrative, a different one. A narrative that breaks into the alienated nature of lives of Hong Kong-ers. Alienated from one another. Alienated from ourselves.

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Aadityakrishna Sathish is a student at College of the Atlantic, Bar Harbor, ME. He is pursuing a B.A. in Human Ecology. He is from Hong Kong and India. His studies lie in the intersection of post-colonial studies, feminist theory, anthropology, philosophy, and performance. He addresses some of the question they pose through photography.

Olivia Cronk & Philip Sorenson

“All of the Meanwhiles”: Signal Intrusion, Time Travel, Abrasion, Rupture.

          Broadcast signal intrusions are rare. Only three have ever occurred in the United States. The first was in Florida. An HBO broadcast of The Falcon and the Snowman was intruded upon by a consumer complaint. Subscriptions, Captain Midnight announced, were too expensive: “Showtime/ Movie Channel Beware!” The second and third happened in 1987, two separate broadcast signal intrusions within hours, same town. The news on Chicago’s WGN. Then, WTTW’s Sunday night broadcast of Doctor Who. They have the quality of a threat, the paroxysms of a global crisis: capitalism’s death drive producing etchings of its own ruinous-ness. They appear disjointed, allusive, stupid, and eruptive. A kind of release, like gas or treasure, the old tie that binds entrails, hell, and gold. Or, pulled from the evening air, and wedged into a prior schedule. But not like commercials are. Commercials are always expected. But advertisements and intrusions share the quality of a superimposition. Here’s a starship; now we’re talking peanut butter. Intrusions are more like graffiti, a means to reassert presence and expression. “We” re-inscribe the signal to show that “we” “own” the signal. Or, does the interruption become “that text” that Barthes says “we write in our head when we look up”? A distraction from the text and a nullification of the text’s authority? Is a signal intrusion a brief moment where textual authority and hierarchies are subverted? Paroxysm, an unplanned knock, superimposition, re-inscription, nullification, and translation: they wear a mask of Max Headroom and translate a thing in transition, attempting, we think, to remake Max’s anti-capitalist “disguise” into its actual content; they intrude on a text, too, that is transitional: eras and planets, and faces that change even as the characters and situations remain. Dr. Who rewrites Holmes and Watson, which is itself a rewriting of Poe’s Dupin: a pile up of texts and allusions. Interruption and anachronism: time travel.

Max Headroom 1987 broadcast signal intrusion incident. This still is drawn from the Sunday night intrusion upon WTTW’s broadcast of Doctor Who.

          The pirating incident is a form of/ a text for modeling time travel in that it interrupts via pause, like the half-alien/ half-human Evie Ethel Garland from the syndicated television program Out of this World: a text from childhood, a thing that holds our attention, in part, because of its amazing enactment of fantasy. Evie touches her fingers together and time stops around her. This allows her to physically alter her space beneath others’ notice. She’s an agent inside the text who can interrupt the flow of time, but she can still act inside of the new time created by the interruption: the Max Headroom mask talks to the viewer from an impossible time (a space inside of stopped time)—isn’t this part of the terror generated by the event, too? And how unsettling would it be, in the paused moment, to not know where or how this document for insertion was created (did the pirates make a video—say, two weeks before—to simply lay down in the television-space they opened up? Or were viewers imagining themselves to be seeing something created live, as in: the pirates are directly transmitting the talking-mask for all the “newspaper . . . nerds”; they are doing this in our time?). The thrilling and upsetting delivery to our living rooms is of course still achieved, whether they do it in another time (pre-made video) or alongside of us (we were in our homes while they were in their storage space; we/ they were there all along).
          Spaces, viewpoints, and texts seem to insert or obtrude. In fact, looking up from the text is a rupture, a leakage of the private into public. But it’s not displeasing, nor necessarily penetrative. It can be touching. Barthes argues for textually received pleasure through “abrasion”: “the abrasions [we] impose upon the fine surface” of a text provide us with pleasure. But who is acting upon what here? If the pirates are doing the abrasion, they are asking us to join in. The medium simply demands it. Part of the interruption is defiance of expectation. We are in an intimate/ private exchange with the Dr. Who episode; we are alone or gathered round, but it is most commonly a domestic space. Then “Max Headroom” (a familiar head made unfamiliar, made uncanny?) comes in and violates the space. The pirates have abraded episode, and in doing so have delivered to us the (new) pleasure of a defiled surface. And because in our watching we are collaborators, we too are committing the abrasion. What pleasure is greater than this? We are—especially if we were originally viewers who thought the text to be “live”—inside of their theatrical, paused time. The abrasion is upon our living rooms; we’re in the show! The abrasion bridges, then, the BBC, the dying empire’s psychedelic time traveler TV show, the Chicago network and studio that airs it, the mask’s storage space, and our own lives: all of these spaces begin to touch. We are all folded into a private act (note that contemporary news coverage of the event labeled the spanking device a “marital aid”) leaked public or a public act leaked private; we’re bound by the abrasion, we’re linked in dead surveillance, we’re eyes on the abrasion that is emitted and that gathers us in its scarring force.

          Intrusions, and overwritten texts, are far more a feature of everyday experience than they were in 1987. Though, that period’s anxieties surrounding media’s negative dis-/ interruptive effects pervade its art. For example, we see dis-/ interruption re-imagined by Max Headroom’s fictional “blipverts.” Blipverts are thirty-second advertisements that have been condensed to three seconds, so viewer-consumers don’t notice them. There’s no intrusion. Viewers desire to have no “break” from programming. Of course, this innovation just disappears the field upon which the program has been set. The real foundation is the commercial; the viewer-consumer is placed into relation with that field: a brand. By making the advertisement invisible, the consumer has nothing to resist, is not confronted with the product. The loop becomes too small to see. The consumer has no “time to switch channels.” The blipverts in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future, though, are lethal. They cause some to explode, but only the most perpetual viewers: “The only people who are that inactive are pensioners, the sick, or the unemployed,” states one executive at Network 23, a dystopian transnational typical to the era’s cinema (e.g. Omni Consumer Products from RoboCop or Weyland-Yutani from Alien).
      However, near the program’s end, we see Blank Reg, the cyberpunk proprietor of Big Time TV, an underground network, watching as the truth of blipverts is revealed. Just before the network’s chief executive and chief scientist are forced to confess their crimes on live TV, Blank Reg switches channels. “What a load of bollocks,” he hisses before switching over to a broadcast of Max Headroom reciting his stale jokes. Even without the commercial “break,” the viewer has lost interest.

          Of course, the Internet is cacophonous. Signal intrusions like the interruption in 1987 now occur daily. They are tonally similar, similar in their alignment with absurdity, similar in their reliance on mimesis, similar in their anti-corporate (?) tendencies. They occur, though, not on one scale—the scale of broadcast television—but on an amorphous global/ micro scale. They gestate, or creep outward, or they explode and they make themselves always available for further reproductions, alterations, abrasions, superimpositions, translations, and intrusions. Think of the recent assassination in Ankara. Shocking images are disseminated across the Internet. They are immediately altered. Violence is turned into a set of “iconic” images, which are, in turn, immediately and at a small, though global, scale rendered into memes. You can comically manipulate the assassination with text, though typically with allusion: image-as-non-sequitur. Put Archer’s head on the assassin’s body. Put Freddy Mercury’s head on the assassin’s body. Put Left Shark’s head on, and on with endless fictional and nonfictional faces as masks. The absurd replaceable head as superimposition, as translation, as paroxysm, as sign for the broadcast signal intrusion.
And now the “program” is hand-held. The body carries the screen. When the pirate broke into the Sunday night show, he arrived in the home. The defacement/ abrasion-chain was made upon the screen-within-the-domestic-space (admittedly an often individualized arena, but one in which multiple persons can be/ are often assumed to be present). Now, though, an intrusion upon/ into/ revealed by a screen can often be assumed to be individual—the intrusion comes into/ onto your hand. It’s a Cronenberg movie. It’s the dystopia. It’s a chip placed into your skin without your consent. It’s the CIA watching you through your TV. It’s not that all.

          And what of the head as a tool for social control: biometrics, knowing, and individualization-aggregation for the reconstitution of people as information? Data. Closed borders. Ratings. The face becomes a site for inference, representation, and systemic control: who may enter, who may not, knowing each from each. Our real heads are real cages, as artist Zach Blas shows us in his Face Cages. Or as he demonstrates through Facial Weaponization Communiqué:
      Facial Weaponization Suite protests against biometric facial recognition–and the inequalities
      these technologies propagate–by making “collective masks” . . . from the aggregated facial data
      of participants, resulting in amorphous masks that cannot be detected as human faces by
      biometric facial recognition technologies.
Here, Blas obscures the specific face by transforming it into an aggregate face that resists the force of capture by using the very tools of capture. The face-as-floating-head constructed by state power and commercialization is undermined by more floating heads: full of glitches, opaque, unreadable, collective, and “faceless.” In other words, “We propose to make the face our weapon. . . . A face is like being armed.”
          What of Max, in the pilot, the series, and as an ad-man, who is pure thought, an image of a person’s brain remade as a glitchy identity, dodging away from the uncanny? He’s the promise of a robot: disembodied, geographic, virtual, data-composed, and “disruptive.” He’s an inaccurate image of a currently lived reality: Max is data, as we are the data that stick to our bodies and replace us. “I’m talking ratings,” furiously declares one Network 23 executive. Another replies, “And I’m talking people.” But of course, the first quickly retorts, they’re the “same thing.”

          Interruption and intrusion are different from disruption. To interrupt is to break between, to shoulder into an ongoing system, not to refabricate it (though remaking does happen); interruption shuts it down. Intrusion is a thrusting into; it’s linked to distraction, which is a pulling apart. Intrusion relates to invasion and usurpation. The 1987 intrusion is totally superimposed, like Deleuzian philosophical time (“all of the meanwhiles are superimposed on one another”); it’s spasmodic, and it translates a text that is itself already hopelessly transliterated. Most importantly, the masked and headless intruders got away with it, just like a mirror, which also always seems to “get away with it.”
          The signal intrusion is not merely inter-/ im- in nature; it is also a translation. Watching TV is a kind of reading. The signal intrusion is a translation. Watching a signal intrusion is a different kind of reading. We agree with conceptual writer and artist Tan Lin: “TV watching is not idle time. People philosophize [while] watching TV; the more TV people watch, the more philosophizing they do.” Lin says that channel surfing is a way to meditate. What does it mean, though, when the image shifts against your will, without your lucid pointing of your remote control (here is something, though, about the media in the hand) at your screen? But let’s repeat the sequence/ the circuit: reading, translation, signal intrusion, translation. What the translators “get away with” has to do with their headlessness/ facelessness in the act.
          In a discussion of Hannah Arendt’s The Life of the Mind, excerpted/ anthologized in Currently and Emotion (a text openly seeking instigation of disruption), poet Lisa Robertson writes of “the invisible place of reading” as examined by Arendt. “The activity of thinking is an unanswerable one.” & “Reading resists being seen.” Robertson makes what she says is an “unproblematic segue from thinking to reading because the two activities are . . . folded into one another.” The signal intrusion is a translation. Watching TV is a kind of reading/ thinking. In a discussion of Caroline Bergvall’s work (further on in Currently), poet Laura Goldstein writes that translation is “a constant act of the performance of reading, writing, and displaying language”; the unseen activities of reading and thinking are made seen. The signal intrusion translates Dr. Who. In that act, it makes visible its own thinking. And because of the nature of the medium and the fact of the abrasion, we’re asked, too, to serve as translators, but our co-translators are faceless. And, so, we’re left holding the bag, so to speak. The rupture seems, in a deeply terrifying way to us, to expose the viewer: as if someone installed cameras in your bedroom, your bathroom, or god forbid, right in front of your lifeless face, as you watch/ read the TV.
          A young woman interviewed in the news coverage of the event remarks, “I thought it would be just a slight mess up, but that, that in the middle of the tape, I’m going to have to tape over it.” She was making a record of her reading the TV, a kind of log. This taping of programs, especially in the old VHS mode, might be understood as a translating act, too; it certainly makes seen her viewing of the program. And then, for her, the intrusion spoils the record. The thing is marred, and she will be relegating the act again to the unseen when she erases via “taping over,” though we can assume a kind of buzzing palimpsest remains somewhere.

          Over and again, cinematic science fictions from this era, such as Max Headroom, project bleak futures: ultra violence, virtuality, crassness, and the decay of the commons: “We could go porno. Early.” However, these fictions are meant to 1. suggest a possible future and 2. offer a critique of current trends, in order to 3. resist or correct the social decay. Because they project dystopia forward while suggesting the contemporary root, these texts are “about” anxiety, which, Freud suggests, is just remade guilt. What do these creators and audience feel guilty about? The white authorities must know/ forget/ deny what they’ve done. They don’t want to talk about it. And here is a now/ future where snuff is on your satellite (Videodrome). And here is a future where a person is data, corporations function as governments, and the world drowns in blood (Robocop, etc., etc.). What does it mean that murders are now available on social media? That these images are soon saved and disseminated via YouTube? Has the future come to pass? No. The future was always here in the distant past of right now. The intruders’ broadcast, though, does not project forward. They are not showing “things to come.” They represent the now and the always has been. The intruders show us bad jokes, ridiculous sex, consumerism, spasm, threat. They aren’t selling anything. They’re the screen looking away from the screen. These aren’t satirists; this is anti-allegory. Anne Boyer: “Fed a pabulum of the very bad and told it is the only food, it is no wonder so many people fearfully covet the apocalypse.” The pirates offer, just as any apocalypse-text does, an escape hatch. But unlike, say, the more composed “pleasures” of Art Bell’s throaty voice over the radio or a think-piece on how children will no longer know what snow days are, this text simply arrives with its eyes on us and our eyes on it: it comments on surveillance without evaluation. It hoaxes. It cajoles. It provokes. Its emergence foretells the end. It comments on empire even as it is birthed by such.
          The broadcast signal intrusion is, at least in part, an intersection of multiple imaginaries. Think of what is being interrupted. While this is “public” broadcasting, a space that is ostensibly aligned with the common good against the degradation of public life, the ways in which such spaces are ultimately aligned with larger state and corporate forces need no real explanation here. The intruded upon episode of Dr. Who, “Horror at Fang Rock,” is a story of phobic invasion, modeled—another interleaf—on Lovecraft’s multiply derivative teratological representation of reactionary anxiety in “The Colour Out of Space.” Media and genres slide around, foamy and disassociated. It’s difficult not to imagine these different texts (intrusion and thing being intruded on) in conversation with each other, even though they are on different, yet colliding, platforms. It’s hard to find solid ground, to know the time. We see the start of the twentieth century as represented by 1977: i.e. the height of Imperial England just a month before Never Mind Bollocks, further disturbed by the narrative’s much broader lens, which includes cosmic time, anachronism, and allusion. Doctor Who is from the distant past as well as the distant future. But the sets and effects, the technology and usage, everything is of its period: it’s a mish-mosh. And here is a flat surface, a fortuneteller’s head in a carnival box, the mechanical hand passing to you the appropriately non-specific information.

Olivia Cronk is the author of Skin Horse (Action Books, 2012) and Louise and Louise and Louise (The Lettered Streets Press, 2016), and co-editor of The Journal Petra.

Philip Sorenson is the author of Of Embodies (Rescue Press, 2012) and Solar Trauma (Rescue Press, forthcoming), and co-editor of The Journal Petra.

Matt Schumacher


Amidst amethyst mists silvered with slivers of moon, our astute wanderer of districts of dubious repute parades us down alleyways where we’ll be waylaid. To back rooms whose labyrinthine hookahs billow so copiously with smoke you can hear chambered within them chimneysweeps’ echoing shouts for help. De Quinceyeans under the influence, pleasantly or torturously indisposed, breathe smoke, thick as clothes, smoke both market and theatre. Swipe an opiumpipe. Suckle the world of its inhalations like irresistible tentacles. Play and be played by the night, its night-blooming bassoon improvising the derangements of the mind. Please proceed past the province of complete pipe dream, whose abandoned buildings house the machinery of dreaming. Chase after fledgling hallucinations in the hatcheries of far-fetched reveries. Brave avenues where the multitudes of evil spirits who follow De Quincey flee his disfigured guardian angel.


I guess you’re here for the opium, blurts the suspect. A farmhouse spills delicate, paper-thin crimson from a dead end road in the foothills. Yet come and see De Quincey, small and shimmering man/hologram, shoo away authorities with a small spectral hand, arresting the scene, bruising dusk blue like Psilocybe Cubensis in lieu of his innumerable absences. See the police extinguished like last rays of vanishing daylight. Eavesdrop on the most notorious opium-eater in literary history left there to supervise 500 million dollars worth of opium poppies growing hidden behind honeylocusts. What can he do, what will he do, with the vast span of all of this contraban? O, the expression on his face—what a wild coalsecence, a concession stand of delight, wonder, and fright—it is priceless! There’s no sphinx speaking here of the burden of the incommunicable. As if a homeless drifter inherited a shapeshifting estate from a complete stranger. For the first time, the English Opium-eater glides the palatial stairs, trods their hidden grandeur, and rising on their spiral, fingers careful not to disturb the zebra swallowtail butterflies resting on their handrails, lets these banisters lead him through vast rooms the hue of cumulus adrift in cerulean heights, meadowsized antechambers which are truly scarlet blooms…


De Quincey must play many roles in opium’s postmodern one-man show. Unlike a politician, he speaks firsthand to addicts on the street. Everyone I know is on heroin–he quotes an Ohioan, an addicted mother of three. A third of the U.S.—someone you know—gets destroyed daily on opiods, states his resulting article. And you really must see the English opium-eater as shakyhanded teen, codeine fiend with slurred speech beseeching drug dealers on the streets because he resembles your own child, at least what he’d look like were he homeless and missing. De Quincey as a paramedic injecting narcan into an 11-year-old girl who overdosed. De Quincey as a mule for an Ashtabula county pill mill. As an activist carrying a sign which says: NO MORE DRUG WAR! 36 billion a year and a pandemic! As a policeman paid off by the Taliban, protecting an Afghani opium field with an AK-47. De Quincey as a marketer for a drug campaign, making bank, coyly downplaying addiction in favor of relief from chronic pain. As a judge with no training at all in pharmaceuticals or recovery, prescribing Vivitrol. As an Insys executive who forsakes last stage cancer patients to rake in billions, laughing with another executive in a restroom, while the punchline echoes: fentanyl sells! De Quincey driving a hearse carrying away the bodies of the young from what once were their homes. As a bystander wondering what the fuck is wrong with this country this makes absolutely no sense. Thinking someone sure kicked the living shit out of that white picket fence.


Opium! dread agent of unimaginable pleasure and pain! I had heard of it as I had of manna or of Ambrosia, but no further: how unmeaning a sound was it at that time! what solemn chords does it now strike upon my heart! what heart-quaking vibrations of sad and happy remembrances!
–De Quincey, Confessions

De Quincey died in 1859. He never had his front door smithereened by a SWAT team. Never was tased or pepper-sprayed. Never was sentenced like a young black male facing an all-white jury, locked up for life in Oklahoma for trafficking three ounces of crack cocaine. Never watched the white judge recite his sentence, or heard the state really say, We could arrest their leaders. raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did. De Quincey wasn’t sickened by prison’s fetid, stale air, the click of locking metal doors. The silence when a penitentiary replaces nights filled with stars. Despite his Orientalist nightmares, he was no scapegoat in Saydnaya. He never fled edicts to kill every drug addict. He never had to meet Philippine vigilantes. Men dismembering and indiscriminately killing children. The state’s greatest hope would be to execute the Opium-Eater without trial, pin on him an incriminating sign advertising his use or sale of drugs, and leave him for all to see, dying in the street. A bloodstained example of what not to be.


On a hot July day, De Quincey, high on bath salts, breaks in and decorates a random family home for Christmas. The police break in, too, and find fault, arresting the pale, emaciated poet just when he’s placing the star atop the tree. He’s frisked, booked, and charged with B and E. But wait, the police say… Look at these Christmas lights, this tinsel and these snowglobes! Let no one say this Mr. De Quincey lacks style! Somewhere that damned dandy, Lord Byron, somersaults in his grave, wishing he could be this extravagant, this wild. Then the police become wooden mannequins. They’re merely props that drop through a trapdoor. And Santa Claus—I mean the real Santa Claus—replaces them, ambling in, taking De Quincey’s hand. So saileth away De Quincey in the famed sleigh, into a summer night that drinks the reindeer trail, the galaxy of blinking lights that accompany the siren.

Matt Schumacher, managing editor of the New Fabulist journal, Phantom Drift, lives in Portland, Oregon. His recent poetry collections include Ghost Town Odes and a chapbook of fantastical drinking songs, favorite maritime drinking songs of the miraculous alcoholics.

Christine Stoddard

Christine Stoddard is a writer, artist, and founding Quail Bell Magazine editor. Her work has appeared in the Queens Museum, the Condé Nast Building, the New York Transit Museum, and beyond.

Florence Sunnen

Florence Sunnen is a collagist and short story writer from Luxembourg City. She spent five years as a postgraduate at the University of Warwick, where she recently completed an MFA project. Her work draws from her multilingual upbringing, and searches for a middle ground between creative writing and philosophy. Currently, her favourite poet is Claudine Toutoungi. Florence’s work has appeared in Datableed and The Learned Pig. She lives in Coventry, UK.