“Post-digital Kenosis”: On Jake Reber’s ambient body horror ZER000 EXCESS (11:11 Press)

I.

What would happen if you ran all our systems of signification through a large hadron collider? The result might be something like Jake Reber’s ZER000 EXCESS—the result would frighten us. What follows is our attempt to come to grips with this work, one which denies us the refuge of conventional meaning structures …

 

II.

Debased files, melted rom on the cerebellum, species collapse as global machinic malfunction. A new kind of sapience. A mangled archive of what was left after the unspeakable. The opposite of salvation: “a / void to export / documents.” Seemingly the shreds of a failed biomechanical experiment on a grand scale. Typographic arrows as arché-fossils. Anisotropy as ars poetica. Capital as metallurgic cosmic parasite:

media fields proliferate through
bioid networks. No need for
reproduction when contagions
accelerate the rate of replication
.

 

III.

There is no protagonist here, if by this word we are meant to designate an individual consciousness. Nor a chorus either, if by this we mean a collectivity. The voice here is ancient, but also located far into the future, a null point where any kind of individual/collective distinction has collapsed.

 

IV.

The line between the graphic novel and the poetic disappears, and we mean this literally since the illustrations here are modeled on the popular comic and the text’s line breaks seem to ape the poetic, without being reducible to this form either. There is only black and white here, and the text celebrates this binary, as it bathes itself in a cascade of illegibility: images straddling between signal and noise.

avantgarde gallery space = sterility of birthing center

tri//vial to create anything
when algorithms hacking // the baby brain
is unraveling art.

Disasters of writing are hidden by hours in front of a screen.

As we read the text, we get the strange feeling of being deprogrammed. As if each black and white image were meant to be a secret Rorschach blot designed to wake one up from an imposed slumber. Meawhile we follow a cephalopod and the stains of his ink across the spaces open up the margins of what we are calling a “text”—though this shorn fabric is actually a collapse of textual and extra-textual surfaces. All of this is punctuated by snippets of what seems to be a collective nightmare experienced by a group of beings under eternal hibernation. So a bit like us?

 

V.

At other times the reading experience is like reading the corrupt files from a forgotten human vessel navigating through forgotten forms of space; malformed trajectories of time. And so there is considerable textual saturation along with black pools of redacted material. Which is to say that ZER000 EXCESS is both a textual and visual experience: no one element precedes the other; there’s a synergy between typography and image crucial to the poetics of its composition: “there is a strange sort of decay that happens when there are no fleshy bodies at stake.”

To archive is to copy and recreate—every digital copy is a new object, an altered clone
that now exists alongside the previous version.

PDFs, JPEGS, MOVS, DOCs, html files, all are being reproduced whenever they are
summoned, whenever they are downloaded.

 

VI.

There is no original copy of the universe; there never was one. The universe as digital machine is overheating.

 

VII.

A summary of Reber’s ars poetica: “Saying too much converts speech into noise – hoping to eliminate any [accidental] significance through [accumulation] and [overload].”

Citationality and copy/pasted texts are also crucial to Reber’s process. Citing complimentary entries from a Hebrew dictionary, the text exposes the relation between words like self, root, and gods, producing a mind-bending etymological undercurrent which mimics the structure of the entire work itself: a digital textile united by painterly codes (digital, biological, cosmic, etc.).

 

VII.

Writing, over-writing, bio-digital palimpsest. As we come across the book’s last page our initial impulse is be to go back and relive the experience: we find ourselves replicating our readings; we find ourselves in square 1:

the
possibility of
disaster across
massive
geographic
spaces starts to
melt and
corrupt mental
processing

liquid plastic on
cerebral cortex

… swimming in a miasma of degraded files, forgotten digital gods, gasping for air.

ZER000 EXCESS, by Jake Reber. Minneapolis, Minnesota: 11:11 Press, October 2020. 268 pages. $18.95, paper.

Javier Padilla is Assistant Professor of English at Colgate University.

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