One of the most unique aspects of electronic literature is the versatility of it’s essence. Like many other art forms, such as poetry, painting, fiction/non-fiction creative writing, and many other, Electronic Literature is a genre that allows itself the potential for reincarnation. What this means is that e-lit not only holds the potential to make art, but also the ability to reinvent the creation process of that art. This quality of it’s existence allows for the creation and pursuit of all manners of artistic vision, and one of these such visions is Justin Katko’s Up Against the Screen Mother Fuckers. In this unique and perplexing work of auditory and visual dilution, Katko manipulates the barriers of both art and literature to assert his intense and thought provoking commentary in a manner that is both effective and haunting. Up Against The Screen was written in July of 2007 with the animation and visual presentation being created from Oct. 2007 – June 2008. It was published in the Electronic Literature Collection: Vol. 2.
The presentation is simple. An old fashioned Quick Time player greets your screen when you click “begin”, surrounded by the simple, hospital white, wall of the browser. Immediately, the speakers blare with disjointed static scramblings and a color array equally as coarse begins tessellating around the small, square presentation. The kaleidoscopic display is disorienting, almost nauseating, and combined with the groaning, tortured audio, a viewer is instantly given the vibe that this will not be a comfortable journey. This assault on the senses continues on for what seems like an eternity, the static screams and sighs creating an aura of perpetual stagnancy, yet still slurring forward like a digital slug.
As soon as the viewer begins to regain a semblance of comfort, Katko cuts in, delivering a verbose slam-po-epic (poetry epic) that addresses the intense reliance our society has on screens. Katko spews hot vengeance against the essence of technology, like a deranged recording of a mutant cyborg-Hitler, Katko demands the attention of his audience as he unravels his aching mind. The epileptic display continues to bombard the screen, periodically switching to an image of a soldier, standing in a room of screens, weapon drawn.
This image is the smoking gun of this piece, paired with Katko’s compelling interjections of “Up Against the Screen Mother Fuckers!” it brings the issues raised of technological dependence to a higher stakes, more dangerous, level. Katko implies a sort of slavery to technology, equating the wall’s of our lives to phone/tablet/computer screens.
Up Against The Screen Mother Fuckers is a bold and enlightened attack on both poetry and the people who create it. Katko stands in front of us all and instead of accusing the technology of taking advantage of us, turns instead to face the masses, demanding we see our hand in the system. Katko is evocative, and through his passion produces a work that can not and should not be overlooked.