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From Curator Journal this month, my conversation with Machine Project’s Mark Allen about museums, strangers interactions, and the art of interruption

The life of the street, at its best, is lyrical, unexpected, and momentarily intimate. Cities by definition comprise strangers, and when strangers find cause to break their urban detachment, the episodes of street intimacy they make can be precious and thrilling. These moments fascinate me, both in my own experience and in the abstract, as what I believe to be a craved pleasure of city dwellers. I’m talking here about the pleasure of interruption, of fleeting connections. These moments are metonyms for why we choose to live in cities. They shimmer with the beauty of the ordinary and everyday. And they’re rich with meaning, as instances of what linguists call “phatic communication,” which is to say, an exchange that has little semantic value but high social and emotional value. When your neighbor says, “How’re you doing?” what they also say is: I know you, I recognize you, we’re in this thing of being humans together.

I am both a writer and a teacher, and my passion is opening windows for people to see and experience the things I see when I move through the world–a world driven and animated by the marvelous interruptions of street life in the city. The story of my first novel, Follow Me Down, emerges from a concatenation of these sorts of moments, drawing an existential mystery out of them. And at the Interactive Telecommunications Program of New York University I teach technologists, artists and inventors to explore these interactions in public and private experience, to understand the minutiae of how and why and where they happen. What I’ve learned from my students’ experiments and projects is that it’s far from easy to instigate city interactions that carry the same rich social and emotional experience as the ones produced by accidental convergences.

I was thinking about these contexts when I set out to revisit Mark Allen’s Machine Project, a Los Angeles non-profit performance and installation space that hosts events, workshops, and site-specific works on art, technology, natural history, science, music, literature, and food, focusing on hands-on engagement. Machine Project also operates as a loose confederacy of artists producing site-specific work. They’re currently serving as artists in residence at the Hammer Museum of Art, producing a year of programming addressing the visitor experience and public engagement. I find their work deeply charming, and exciting for the ways that their installations shift the dynamics of museum spaces. The Machine Project’s work changes the aura and authority in the room. It can call into question the social rules of how museum spaces are used, what is allowed, what is expected. They are skilled orchestrators of unexpected experiences in unexpected places.

Out on the street, in everyday conversations, at work, at school, or in the museum, we are governed by unwritten rules and unexpressed expectations that are visible, knowable, only when they are broken. It’s jarring and illuminating when it happens. It pulls you firmly into the present, into the moment and place where you are. This is not merely a metaphor: a moment like that wakes you up.

Mark and I met up in New York recently to talk about our shared passion for playful awakenings.

–Kio Stark

Mark Allen: Machine Project started out as a real interest in this notion of the city as the site of engagement with different kinds of ideas. Every week we engage with a different form of culture, so there’s cycling of different kinds of ideas and people. Because it’s a storefront, you can see what’s going on in there and cues of authority are not particularly strong. It’s a very casual space and people wander in.

When you move into the museum it’s a very authoritative space and so I got very interested in what that space is and how people occupy it. One way to think of it is as a civic space like a park. So, there are other people there. They’re there to use the space in the same way that you are. You do not know them, but there is a kind of commonness of purpose.

Kio Stark: And there’s a set of expectations about that–a working consensus is what it’s called in sociology–about behavior. There’s also a set of experiential expectations. In theory you go to the museum to have your mind opened and to have a contemplative experience, but you know what that experience is going to be in advance and you’re prepared to take pictures of it and you’re prepared to talk about it afterwards in certain ways. So the space includes those codes as well, and you may have a predetermined narrative of what happens in the museum space.

MA: Yes, so part of my project overall is how can you carve out a space in the museum that’s less authoritative and how you can make work that is smaller, more intimate in that same space. One thing I do is look at interstitial spaces. The museum really constructs viewership in galleries and not in elevators so you do something in an elevator, it feels like a different form of space and it also changes the viewer’s perception of where the site of the aesthetic experience is. It’s a way of producing a different form of attention.

KS: Which is really central to the way I think about interruption and pleasure–in this case, unexpected experience in public space and unexpected experience of a space where you’ve got an idea of what’s supposed to be happening and that gets disrupted. So let’s talk about a concrete example of how you do that.

MA: Sure, one example is at the Hammer Museum, they have a coat room which is underneath the stairs of the museum and we’ve been staging two-minute concerts for two people at a time in there. It’s a very raw space. There is a coat rack with a security guard, a couple of chairs in the corner. It feels like backstage. So I conceptualize it as a spot that’s more connected to the security of the museum, but it also feels like a space outside the panopticon of security. The lobby that the coatroom is in feels like a bank lobby so the architecture and the security are constructed in such a way that it’s very intimidating.

In conceiving the piece, I thought about metaphors like: “You’re squatting in an abandoned house,” or “you’re at a party at somebody’s parents house when they’re out of town when you’re a teenager,” situations where you don’t own the space. In the coatroom concert, you’re occupying in a way that makes you both more aware of how the rest of the museum space constructs authority, but also feels like some kind of escape from that.

KS: In interpersonal relations, there’s the concept of the opening position, which is the position of openness or receptivity that an unengaged person presents, and then the opening move someone makes to engage that person. I was thinking about the space of the museum having or lacking opening positions, and that your work creates opening positions in spaces where they are not expected. This is a big thing with my students at ITP. They get very focused on the technology and we have to push them to consider the idea that you have to get people to pick up the object, or walk up to something that’s going to interact with them, or initiate an interaction with someone–whether it’s via technology or not. People have to feel invited into involvement. So, with the coatroom piece, I’m thinking: how did the piece invite people in?

MA: We have a giant sign that says, “Two-minute concerts, inquire.” We tried a bunch of different strategies. We tried asking people when they came in if they wanted to see a concert. We tried seating somebody right by the sign and in the end it seemed like those approaches were a little bit oppressive. People had just entered the museum and they didn’t really want to have to think about this crazy thing of whether they wanted to hear a two-minute concert in a closet. So we scaled back a little bit, and instead tried to give lots of indicators of what was happening and to have people you could ask. We would sometimes leave the door open so you would see the people performing, and the people watching people perform. They can imagine in their head what it will be like if they’ve seen someone else do it. In general that’s always a really good model for participatory things. If you can create it so that the non-participants can see other people participating, then it sort of becomes like the way you put a dollar in your tip jar at the beginning of your shift. It may be unfamiliar, but you can see how to use it.

KS: Did people stand around outside talking about it?

MA: In this case, not really. It does happen in some of our work. You can create a piece where it’s a container for people to do something in.

KS: The piece becomes a social object.

MA: It depends on how much you construct for that, and of course, it depends if it’s one of the values that the work is trying to advance.

KS: You can only choreograph with so much certainty, though, right? In terms of how people respond to the piece socially. There’s the Marina Abramovic piece at MoMA. It’s a performance for one person in a situation that’s being watched by everyone else. You’re very aware of being watched and photographed when you’re sitting there with her.

So it’s an intimate experience in public, and you would think it would become a social object in that way. But it doesn’t really. It’s a fascinating situation in the space she’s made. People are sitting and talking, and even though the piece is about this profound presentness and attention, everyone else is kind of chattering. You’re at enough distance from the intimate performance that you don’t feel like you’re interrupting it. I sat on the sidelines and had a conversation with my friend about her love life and then we’d watch for a while and then we would go back to talking. That’s what most people were doing, alternating between attention and inattention. What surprised me was I didn’t actually see a lot of people talking to strangers in that arena. Usually any point of triangulation is an excuse for people to talk to each other. It’s the equivalent of when something weird happens on the subway.

There’s also a way of constructing an experience that’s not just social but also collective. You guys have done really interesting things in that vein.

MA: We did a “dream-in” at the Hammer Museum, a program organized by Art Spa, where 180 people slept overnight in the museum. We did lucid dreaming workshops and then people volunteered to be woken up at 5:00 the next morning, and we videotaped what their dreams were and then we had actors doing a subtle reenactment of the dreams the next day, playing with the idea that there’s a trace of the dreams.

And actually what was interesting about it was much less that they were sleeping in a museum but just that as an adult (if you’re not trapped at the airport or in a refugee camp) very seldom do you sleep with 180 people. So that experience itself is really interesting.

MA: There’s such a dynamic there of public and private experience. Your dreams are private insights into yourself. But in this case you’re making those insights and raw images public to strangers, and having a collective experience of private matters.

I like how much room there is in your work for the audience to maneuver. The container is generous. In the Tino Sehgal piece at the Guggenheim, that we talked about the other day, it’s a bit different. [This Progress, an installation by the British-German artist whose father fled Pakistan, was on view in February and March 2010.] The piece was also designed to make a small, intimate experience for each participant, in the context of a collective experience. All in this space that was supposed to be about something completely different, which is spectatorship of objects, basically.

The piece involved a series of guided conversations with a series of performers that had a very individual quality for each person. The visitor entered the [emptied-out] rotunda of the museum and was met by a child. The child asked the visitor a question and listened to the answer. As they continued walking up, the child told the answer to a teenager. The child introduced the teenager to the visitor, who continued the conversation as the child walked away. Farther up the ramp, an adult popped out and interjected a statement into the conversation. The teenager introduced the visitor to the adult, who continued walking up as the teenager walked away. At a certain point on the ramp, the adult disappeared. The visitor was greeted by an old person who introduced him or herself, gave the visitor the name of the piece, and told a story as they continued walking up the ramp to the top. The problem was that people immediately asked: “What is this? What is this about?” That wasn’t a question the performers were supposed to answer. So there’s the issue of what do you do when the audience is breaking character as audience, or, by asking those kinds of questions, they are refusing to stay in the container of the piece.

MA: Sehgal’s work is very theatrical, and theater works because of conventions–I sit here, and I behave this way, things happen in the performance space and I clap. Sehgal is creating these sorts of interactive theatrical experiences, which are also playing with the form of theater, so that you have people trying to have the experience, and at the same time being shown how to deconstruct it. and I think that becomes a difficult thing to choreograph.

But I have very different intentions, of course. I usually like to let people know as much as possible what the thing is. When something really is concerned about creating different kinds of experiences around our ideas but within the space of the social in a way that’s very gentle and comfortable. I like it to be clear that we’re now going to do X, Y, Z, P and Q, and hopefully that gets people into a place where they can then kind of just roll with the experience.

KS: As you said, it’s interstitial. It’s not instead of the art, rather, you’re sneaking unexpected experiences into the spaces and overall environment of the museum. I think that’s the most exciting thing that’s going on, whether it’s in museums or traditional public spaces, and whether you’re using technology or basic human interaction, whether it’s about the quotidian or the spectacular. You’re changing the experience of particular spaces and their authority, and at the same time you’re engaging the same feelings of pleasure and aliveness and awareness as you might get from talking to a stranger in the street. I love that.

As a savvy museumgoer, I know that the museum is where the art (or history, or science) is, and that being in the museum makes it art or history or science in a way that has all kinds of economic, social, and cultural ramifications. Now, the museum is always going to be about the art or the history or the science, fundamentally. But the building in which that material is situated is such fertile social space, and rarely used as such.

So, let me say this another way. As an investigator of the public realm, I also know that museums don’t often act like public space, and I’d call that a missed opportunity. To act like public space (like a park or an urban plaza, for example) is not simply to open one’s doors. To act like a public space is to allow and encourage a wider variety of activities than those that are programmed. To let the constituents of the space have some freedom and spontaneity in how they are using it–and since this may be a radical shift within a museum, I think you also have to entice them into thinking of it that way. Even the café, the most potentially sociable, least ruled-by-convention part of a museum manages not to be very sociable. And here’s the challenge: People don’t seem to think of their encounter with the art or history or science as something that’s happening to other people around them at the same time.

I like to see performances, installations, interventions in museum spaces that make that fact impossible to ignore. In Machine Project’s work, you find that there is something weird here in the spaces between the art, and we’re all seeing it, and maybe voluntarily participating in it. In Tino Sehgal’s piece, the experience was the whole of the art, visitors and performers intermingled, and the collective nature of the experience was integral to the piece. Other artists approach the problem in different ways. For me, the point is simply that in treating the museum as a social space you can provoke a very different form of awareness. One of the awakenings you can have in that space is to the space itself, and another is to the other humans in it, to the idea that you are actually sharing an experience with strangers.

Kio Stark writes about and teaches relational technology and human social dynamics at the Interactive Telecommunications Program, New York University, New York City. Her first novel, Follow Me Down, will be published by Red Lemonade in June. Mark Allen is the director of Machine Project, Los Angeles.

This is the pre-peer-reviewed version of the following article: “A Conversation about Machine Project” in Curator: The Museum Journal, 54:1 January 2011, which has been published in final form here.


My first novel to be published June 2011

I’m so excited to announce that my first novel, Follow Me Down, will be published in June 2011 by Red Lemonade, an imprint of Richard Nash’s new publishing company, Cursor.

You can see the cover here, and read an excerpt here.

Stranger Studies

I recently published a narrative version of my ITP Strangers class on the Atlantic Magazine blog. Here’s an excerpt.

“This is a class on urban culture. My fundamental premise is that strangers and cities are inherently intertwined. The everyday nature of interacting with strangers is a byproduct of urbanization, which has created a culture of dense populations with sparse interconnections. That density and sparseness of connections itself is part of what defines ‘the urban.’ Living in cities has made strangers into a multitude: we brush past thousands of them every day. Even the simplest exchange among strangers can contain a tangled accumulation of meanings: what transpires may have physical, emotional, social, political, technological and historical dimensions. I show students how to unravel and understand these charged moments.”

My Foo10 session–Secrets of human nature: 5 experiments you can do with strangers

Below are rough unedited notes from the session I did at Foo today.

About me:

-I make things out of words (stories, explanations), and really the main thing I’m always trying to do is show you something that was invisible to you before. I do this as a fiction writer (just finished first novel), that’s what art is all about. And I do it as a teacher at ITP. I’m also an interactive copywriter.

-I teach about individual social dynamics and relational technology. one lens is intimacy, another is stranger behavior. So I’m sort of a people hacker.

-My classes are a mix of studying existing knowledge and doing field experiments—it’s like Human Nature Lab.

About the experiments:

The premise of all this, why you’d want to do these experiments in the first place is that human nature doesn’t really work how we tend to think of it as working. -human nature is not immutable. When we encounter something that we attribute to human nature, we’re actually engaging in what’s known as situated cognition.

-what we see as human nature is contingent and contextual. It happens in specific places, at specific times of day, under specific lighting conditions and in particular weather, just to name a few variables.

-it’s intersubjective and participatory. Human nature has to do with negotiations in a social field.

What that means is that you can read all you want about human nature—and there’s a lot of amazing, fascinating work that’s been done. Data, studies, ethnography, controlled experiments. But my proposition is you can’t really understand it unless you get down there and muck around in it.

So here are six ways to get started doing that. One important note is these all need to be iterated, can’t run just once.

The Experiments

1. Observing people and unwritten rules

This is the training level in the game. It’s like professional-grade peoplewatching. you go somewhere where there are a lot of people and turn off all your devices. You get a notebook and a pen. You take notes. You could do this with a camera too, but you’ll still need to take notes. You sit for at least an hour in the same spot. Ideally you do it again somewhere else, too. You write down everything you observe, and you look for things you wouldn’t ordinarily track.

You are learning about how people ‘read’ each other.

-what are people wearing, how do they look

-how do they use their bodies

-how do they negotiate the space they’re in, each other

Task A: See if you can find 3 ‘unwritten rules’ about the place from the way people are behaving? Hint: you’ll see these the most clearly when they’re violated. My fave is “civil inattention.”

Task B: explore how we read individuals—how we make inferences about them. Strangers are stories with holes in them. Pick 3 people. What stories are you inventing about these people. a story can be as simple as ‘she’s rich.’ Then figure out what details about the person/people gave you that impression. If she’s rich, it might be how well-cared for her skin looks, or her posture, or her clothing, or her attitude toward others. You also might be wrong. Extra points if you go up and ask people to confirm or deny your stories. I’ve never had a student do this, by the way. (it’s an unwritten rule)

Lastly, pay attention to how you feel doing this. You’re staring, and you’re not supposed to. Are people noticing? What happens when they do? Are you uncomfortable? Are you making people uncomfortable? Are you enjoying that? Learn about your own comfort with violating boundaries. Ok, so now, here’s the real game. It’s a series of designed interactions with strangers, and what’s special about all of them is they are interruptions in the expected social field. I believe strongly that kind of interruption is a specific and craved pleasure, type of connection. It’s also a perfect laboratory.

#2 Are you out of my league

This one is a doozy. You go up to someone on the street, or in a more sedentary public place, and you ask them this question: “Are you out of my league?”

This is really hard to do. Let me reassure you that most people are pretty polite about the whole thing. You can make some choices here. You can tell people it’s an experiment, an assignment (I’ve found that students choose not to do this). So I did this with my class, how many of you would feel comfortable with doing this? You’re going to do this a bunch of times. So choose some people of the same sex and some of the opposite. Choose some people who are alone and some who are with others. Choose some people who are your age and some who are older (younger is asking for trouble, but you are on your own recognizance). Ask some people who you think might answer yes, and some people who you are pretty sure will answer no. Pay attention to what happens after they answer the question. That’s a moment where something called leavetaking rights and exit strategies are really confusing. More awkwardness. Learn from it.

#3 Walk with me

More awkwardness: ask someone if you can walk with them. This is great—and sort of harrowing—when it’s a no-exit situation, like the walking path across a bridge. But you can just stop someone at an intersection and ask if you can walk with them for a few blocks—as long as you give an endpoint. The really butch thing is not to give a reason, but you can say it’s an experiment if you want to. The point is forced conversation for a set interval. You give someone a structure, they’re more likely to participate. Ask questions, or be quiet and let the other person fill in the space—that’s always an awkward and often successful strategy. You’re learning how people negotiate ‘street intimacy’ and how they have a different orientation toward it when they know it’s constrained.

#4 True confession

Your task is to ask at least 5 people to answer a question on video (you have to get at least 5, you may get turned down a few times). What happens on the street when you ask these kinds of questions can be incredibly honest—or awkward, someone who doesn’t want to be honest—in any case it creates a space for honesty. Very different than unsolicited confession. It’s something that isn’t already on a person’s mind, not part of their loop.

Here and here are some of my students’ videos, answering the question “What are you afraid of?”

There’s a trick to formulating a question. Questions: Better to engage imagination than memory. So not, what was the last thing you thought of before you fell asleep (which is a super appealing question). Ppl get hung up on the remembering, the accuracy. And not too open ended. Can have some specificity—[eg]. What brought you here/what keeps you here [in nyc] What did you do today What’s your earliest memory What’s your most precious possession What was the last thing you thought about before sleep What’s the closest you’ve been to famous If you were to get famous, what would it be for What makes you get up in the morning What are you afraid of What would you tell your 10-yr old self What sense would you give up if you had to choose one

#5 Ask for Help

A little background. In 1964 a woman named Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered outside her apartment building in Queens. She screamed a lot, for a relatively long time. It was reported that 38 neighbors heard or saw this happening and nobody called the police (that turned out not to be completely true, but it was the public story). After that a lot of sociologists and psychologists started doing immense amounts of research on the ‘Bystander Effect,’ which is that your impulse to help is inversely proportional to how many people you think are also available to help.

I’m not going to make you pretend to be murdered. You’re just going to ask for directions. This is iterative. And you have to put your iphone out of view.

-Ask for directions.

-If you get directions, as the person to draw a map.

-If you get a map, ask for their phone number in case you get lost.

-If you get a phone number, call it. I’ve only ever had one student actually make the call.

Like before, do this 5-10 times, and use varied targets. You’re experiencing people’s willingness to help, and also you’re encountering people using their cheater detections systems. Also, you’re lying and inconveniencing people. How’s that feel?

Below are some other experiments for advanced users & some cultural data.

This is pulled from: Levine, R. V. (2003). Measuring helping behavior across cultures.

Other experiments.

Retrieving a dropped pen. The experimenter (a neatly dressed college age male), walking at a moderate pace, would reach into his pocket and “accidentally,” without appearing to notice, drop his pen behind him, and continue walking. In each city, we observed the number of occasions a passing pedestrian helped the experimenter retrieve the pen.

Hurt leg. Walking with a heavy limp and wearing a large and clearly visible leg brace (the ugliest ones we could find), the experimenter “accidentally” dropped, and then unsuccessfully struggling to reach down for, a pile of magazines. What proportion of approaching pedestrians offered assistance?

Blind person crossing the street. An experimenter wearing dark glasses and carrying a white cane acted the role of a blind person needing help getting across the street.1 We measured the percentage of instances in which help was offered.

Change for a Quarter. With a quarter in full view, the experimenter approached a pedestrian passing in the opposite direction and asked politely for change for a quarter. We observed how many pedestrians in each city stopped to check for change.

Lost Letter. A neat hand-written note, “I found this next to your car,” was placed on a stamped envelope addressed to the experimenter’s home. The envelope was then left on the windshield of a randomly selected car parked at a meter in a main shopping area. How many of these letters arrived at the address?

Examples of cross-cultural mis-translations.

Change: “In Kiev, RUSSIA, where pickpockets are rampant, visitors are warned to never open their purse or wallet on the street.” “Between monetary inflation and the use of pre-paid telephone cards, however, we learned that the need for particular coins has become virtually extinct in many countries. In Tel Aviv, for example, no one seemed to understand why a person would need small change. In Calcutta, our experimenter had difficulty finding anyone with small value bills and coins–a general shortage which occurs all over India during some festival seasons. In Buenos Aires, we wondered how to score the response of a person who replied, “I don’t even have for myself.’”

Lost letter: “The first problem we encountered was people literally running away from the letters in some cities. In Tel Aviv, in particular, where unclaimed packages have all too often turned out to contain bombs, our experimenter found people actively avoiding the suspicious looking envelopes. In El Salvador, our experimenter was informed about a scam going around in which people were intentionally dropping letters; when innocent samaritans picked one up, the con man told them they had lost the letter, that it contained money, and demanded the money back. Not surprisingly, very few letters were returned in El Salvador.”

I’ve told you a little bit about my experiments with strangers. I’m obsessed with this, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but I wanted to give you a taste of what’s going on in my stranger research. I’d love to hear your stories if you have them, come find me.

Hashtag: #strangerresearch

Syllabus for my ITP class “When Strangers Meet”

what you loved when you were nine or ten

There’s a beautiful passage early in the book The Conversations (a long rambling interview between film/sound editor Walter Murch and writer Michael Ondaatje), where Murch is talking about how intoxicating it was to play with sound when he was nine or ten. He got a cassette tape recorder when they were very new, and would make strange noises by dragging the mic over surfaces, and by recording sounds from out of his (NYC) window. Then he realized he could chop the tape and reassemble it.

“I’ve found that your chances for happiness are increased if you wind up doing something that is a reflection of what you loved most when you were somewhere between nine and eleven years old. At that age, you know enough of the world to have opinions about things, but you’re not old enough yet to be overly influenced by the crowd or by what other people are doing or what you think you “should” be doing. If what you do later on ties into that reservoir in some way, then you are nurturing some essential part of yourself.” [pg. 8-10]

What I remember of that age is that I loved reading, lying, and making things. The lying wasn’t petty, it was rather of the fish stories and tall tales variety. I met a woman recently who I had known for just a couple of years at that age. Her clearest memories of me had to do with the lies, the elaborate and pleasurably accepted storytelling.

Happiness as a byproduct of genuine passion, genuineness measured as a relationship to the unmediated passions of childhood.

What did you love when you were nine or ten–how is it reflected (or not) in what you do now?

time travel

I got some spam back in 2001, and we found its sender on AIM. The spam comes first, then the AIM transcript.

Sent: Saturday, August 25, 2001 5:35 PM
Subject: attention time travelers and aliens

> If you are an alien disguised as human and or have the technology to travel physically through
> time I need your help!
> My life has been severely tampered with and cursed by a very evil women of my past.
> I need to be able to:
> Travel physically back in time.
> Rewind my life including my age.
> Be able to remember what I know now so that I can prevent my life from being tampered with again
> after I go back.
> I am in great danger and need this immediately!
> Only if you are an alien or have this technology please send me a separate email to:
> Thanks

11:54 PM, Kevin and Kio create AIM account “marvermejo”.

marvermejo : You are in danger.
Core0139 : are you telling me or asking me?
marvermejo : I am telling you.
Core0139 : why is that?
marvermejo : I can’t say right now.
marvermejo : where are you right now?
Core0139 : in my house home alone
marvermejo wants to directly connect .
Core0139’s software does not support sending and receiving IM images .
marvermejo : you are in danger.
marvermejo : do you have a car?
Core0139 : yes
marvermejo : you need to get in it, and drive away from your house immediately.
marvermejo : You need to stay away from your house for a period of not less than 72 hours.
marvermejo : Look, this is important.
Core0139 : you are freaking me out, yes my life has been tempered with by what i beleive to be a evil women, I have a bad heart and have had my health tempered with and am scared to go out this late at night alone
marvermejo : This is a woman from your past.
marvermejo : You may not need to leave the house.
marvermejo : Am I correct?
Core0139 : yes I dpn’t belive my house has much to do with it
marvermejo : But she knows where you are.
Core0139 : yes, she was my dads girl freind, was into wich craft and secretly druged and poisened me,
Core0139 : i made my dad break up with her she has been after me since
marvermejo : yes
marvermejo : yes she has
marvermejo : how old is your father now? He is a part of this story.
marvermejo : Though he is not in danger.
Core0139 : he is going to be 51 in november
marvermejo : Do you believe the poisoning to have taken place over a prolonged period? This is an important detail.
Core0139 : she called him 2 years ago, and made him throwing up over the tolit all night long, she called and left a sick message on my moms machine just 6 months ago
marvermejo : right
Core0139 : yes
marvermejo : but do you understand the poisoning to
marvermejo : have been over time
marvermejo : or just once
Core0139 : since she has been around I find I am the victom of my food always being tampered with and bad luck, woerd things, when she was arounf is when i was 9, she was around for a year and poinsed me through out the year
Core0139 : with no bodt beliveing me
marvermejo : right.
marvermejo : But one person has believed you, they know.
Core0139 : I don’t hnik anybody undersatnds or knows what i went through, the gloominess she made me see, once she even put somthing in my food at luch for school which made me start crying for two hours
Core0139 : since then i am having weird things bad luck health problems
marvermejo : right
Core0139 : now so severe i am fighting to stay alive
marvermejo : but others know about the health problems, and they know that you are strong.
Core0139 : they do? who nobody belives me, not even doctors, it’s like i have been given invisible suffering of the worst kind
marvermejo : there’s no one you can trust?
Core0139 : I can trust my mother, but she does not belive me, nor does anyone because i have have so many other things happen and they all just sound to unreal listic
marvermejo : not everyone is capable of seeing the truth
marvermejo : it’s not their fault
Core0139 : yeah thats true
marvermejo : you might have to move. Not today, but soon.
Core0139 : do you predict somthing?
marvermejo : you are further from danger in the North
Core0139 : what if i wear a north facing against a south magnet on each pinky finger?
marvermejo : that will help, but maybe not enough
marvermejo : but the magnets are important
marvermejo : do you have somewhere to go in the North?
Core0139 : no, not at all
marvermejo : look on a map, do you have one there?
Core0139 : no I am lousy at reading maps, so i dont have any
marvermejo : damn
marvermejo : what is the closest border?
Core0139 : i don’t know, I got an f in geogophy, it was my worst subject
marvermejo : But you may have to cross state lines. Do you understand?
Core0139 : yup
marvermejo : Time travel requires that you move through space as well.
Core0139 : once when thier was a ufo in the sky i was brought back 6 hours in my own house, apparently my house is over a grid point
marvermejo : yes, that makes sense
marvermejo : they follow latitudinal lines, but not longitudinal
Core0139 : i see
marvermejo : Do you know about the Tri-Star system
Core0139 : no
marvermejo : I cannot access it right now
marvermejo : but it could help you
Core0139 : i see
marvermejo : when you went back 6 hours, did you experience the shortness of breath then?
Core0139 : no, it was just like a quick flash of white light, heard what sounded like a camera flash, then i noticed it went from 6 oclock in the moring with the sun starting to rise back to 12 oclock mid night
marvermejo : but you can remember nothing about it
Core0139 : no nothing it was just a qucik second not even, and i wondered what happened, but did not think much, when i went down stairs to wake my mom to take me to school, i realized it was 12 oclock again
marvermejo : they may have used time coils
Core0139 : yeah posably
marvermejo : no one at school is aware of your powers, or what you know.
Core0139 : you mean that time trvel experience
marvermejo : yes
Core0139 : yes i mentioned it but ofcorse they all thought i was nuts
marvermejo : of course they did
marvermejo : but it is not the last time
marvermejo : it will happen
marvermejo : Your watch is no good for this, you need a quartz watch.
Core0139 : however i did hear my bus driver speaking to someone over her cb the other bus driver was saying to her that her shild saw monsters in the sky that night
marvermejo : Where was the other bus driver from? Could you tell?
Core0139 : no
marvermejo : damn
marvermejo : because then you could triangulate the location
Core0139 : yeah i know it, I have a hyper dimensional resonator ordered form a fellow named steven gibbs claims to be an actual time traveler, and this things will work over a grid point, however he mentions a lot of bad in his experiences with his machine, not to sure about it
marvermejo : You need to have a plan for what you will do when you get it functioning, it’s not long now.
Core0139 : I wan’t it to work in the way i ask the lord to make it work
then everyting will be ok
marvermejo : yes
marvermejo : this is important: when was the last time you actually saw her?
Core0139 : the witch my dad dated, when i was 9 which was 11 years ago now
marvermejo : but you have sensed her presence
Core0139 : yes and waht is weird is just 2 months before she came into my life i was hanging out with my freind one day and a catering guy handed me and my freind a free hotdog laughing as he handed me mine 1 milnute after eating half way through tears started pouring down my eyes, he must have used one of the same drugs the witch used on me
marvermejo : the effects of the drugs feel as if they are increasing
Core0139 : now I dont know, the felling i got when she wasarounf after I ate her food was the sadest feeling of my life, a feeling of darness and crying all the time, it is posable i have long term drugs effects of whatever she used on me
marvermejo : however
marvermejo : by eating more food you are diluting the effects of the poison. Over time, this is effective.
Core0139 : yeah i know it
marvermejo : Fresh fruit is best
marvermejo : Raisins
marvermejo : With your heart, you need to avoid avocado.
Core0139 : as of now I have such bad uneplained health problems between my heart, prostate infection, to now a feeling of light headessness dizzyness so faint I can’t move around without fight to stay concious my haed feels heavy and it feels like a brain tumor the only thing
Core0139 : that has helped is drinking 6 cups of carrto juice a day and eating nothing but
Core0139 : vegies
Core0139 : and now it is starting to not work!
marvermejo : Right
Core0139 : anymore, i beleive strongly this women is the cause
marvermejo : because they do not dilute the poison without a catalyst
marvermejo : this is why you need fruit.
Core0139 : i do also eat a lot of fruit
marvermejo : I’m sorry that wasn’t clear to me.
Core0139 : I eat anything infact except for animals products including
meat dairy eggs or anything like that
marvermejo : Right, this is important in preparing for time travel. Your body cannot have impurities like that in it.
marvermejo : I have to go now.
Core0139 : ok very nice talking to you, later
marvermejo : I will find you again soon,
marvermejo : I will have information about
marvermejo : the Tri-Star system
marvermejo : do not tell anyone about this conversation.
Core0139 : ok great i appreciate it
marvermejo : Everything good comes around.

fragment from “the invisible museum”

On the sidewalk by the park, a man stood watching the children play. He required a child of a particular age. Old enough to follow instructions. Too young to be trusted as a witness. And alone. The boy was digging a small pit near the edge of the stone wall. Next to him were piled the sort of sundry treasures a boy keeps, shiny and sharp. It seemed as though the hole in the dirt was his only dominion. The man dropped a heavy coin onto the pile, and then an envelope sealed with wax. He pointed over the wall, across the street. He watched the boy cross over, slip in the door behind an old lady, then emerge again a minute later. When the boy returned the man dropped another coin in the dirt. The boy’s greed over the bright currency consumed him. He had not once looked at the man’s face.

fragment from an unfinished short story

They named him Hector, but he didn’t live up to it. So they chopped the name down to a curt and humble syllable: Heck. He was a late and desperately desired child, hard to conceive and harder to raise. His father had been a weak man who succumbed to his foibles while Heck’s mother was still fanning herself on the porch, awaiting deliverance. Alone with her daughters, she settled on this state of affairs as the cause of Heck’s inconsolable wailing, which could go on for hours and often did. His mother rocked him in her arms and sang her sweetest songs. A dull rage would start to tighten between her bony shoulders, and then her prim little daughters took their turns. His screams revved like an engine. Some days there was nothing to do but leave him in the crib and rest their worn nerves outside in the thick wet air, where the hum of the cicadas dulled the pitch of his cries. By the time he could talk, the threat of his tantrums hung over them like a thunderstorm that would not leave. It was the sound, most of all, that kept the tired women under his thumb. His demands crowded them into the corners of the house. By then it took only a dark glance to achieve his aims. They would do almost anything to avoid the exhaustion of appeasing him. When he was sixteen, and they were all wrung dry, his mother sent him to live with her war-hardened brother across town. As if, much too late, that might cure him. The day he left, he turned back from the sidewalk and saw his older sisters glowering at him from the safety of the porch swing like the meek inheriting the earth.

postcards from the shore of a foreign lake

Dear Charles,
Longing is desire, constituted by distance. Across an ocean, across a border, across a room. I long for you now, and I long for you as you walk toward me. As we finally touch, what does longing become?

Dear Charles,
You aren’t here and I am lonely. I weep, and the rented villa weeps with rain. I’m afraid that when I see you again, I will still be lonely. One is poetics, the other is pain.