Safe Mode

by Sam Riviere

‘Maybe a different, deeper life really does move under or alongside this one…’
‘Safe Mode does not run the autoexec.bat or config.sys files. Most device drivers are not loaded. In Safe Mode, Sam Riviere cunningly performs a series of low level tests on the operating system, aka our perceptual systems, working in perpetual safe mode. Like all proper resource management systems, Safe Mode manages our memory resources and soothes our images according to upper level processing constraints, and reveals how the world looks at itself. Safe Mode is a brilliant re-automation of our language and vision systems, locked down in the 21st century’s version of a software permafrost: all our linguistic attachments to faces, all our Airbnb bookings, all our mirrored ATM affects–minus the spam filters, and the black mold of course.’ – Tan Lin
‘In Safe Mode, Sam Riviere boots us into a brazenly undesirable working environment. It’s an atmosphere, a tint, it’s what might happen when clicking back and forth between tabs in this or that rental dump, shifting mental zones, measuring out days through data and the het-up in-folding of strangers. Sam’s major flair is for channelling our maladapted, disassociated softwares. Broken spam filters, tick removal, the world’s saddest polar bear, undealt-with undertones and a ghostly parade of totemic, masculine constructs rise up out of apparently benign linguistic matter. Like being run through a memory test, repetitions occur in sneaky guises, the faulty bits are re-jostled. In here, words and images are fleeting engagements, but, the text implies, attention is your resource – and, if you stay around and look again, you’ll find even stranger zones firing up in the background.’ – Heather Phillipson
Standard Edition
Special Edition

Test Centre is delighted to announce the publication of Safe Mode, an ambient novel by Sam Riviere, and his first book-length prose text.

Safe Mode, a diagnostic tool of a computer operating system, typically takes effect when an installation has a major problem. A parallel, miniature operating system contained by, yet separate from, the main operating system – here, is Safe Mode conceived as an apt metaphor for a literary work’s relation to the author’s life, or an emergency method of recovery?

Framed as an ‘ambient novel’, a term coined by the American writer Tan Lin, Safe Mode abandons the traditional novel’s temporal logic in favour of spatial and atmospheric dispersal, combining intensely personal material with unacknowledged appropriated content to explore the narratives made possible by mood, or the moods made possible by narrative. Which is which? Does it even matter?

Maybe the true 21st century luxury is to always be elsewhere. Stations and bedrooms, names and points of view, dreams and videogames, abandoned and speculative projects, junk emails and love poems, trip reviews and horoscopes – all prove unfixed, able to shift and alternate, vie and repeat, in a text produced by strict formal procedure and conceptual drift – the QWERTY alphabet, a tarot pack.

What kind of information is the most personal or valuable anyway, and to who? The last thing you searched for? Stories told so many times you’re unsure who they happened to? This unsaved document? Or a set of found photographs, saved from destruction on the cusp of the digital era, when things could still really disappear…

An act of self-surveillance, an experiment in discretion and believability, Safe Mode utilises our newly automated behaviours – copy-paste and find-and-replace keystrokes, instant deletion, image searches, advance viewing – to scramble the channels of poetry and fiction, assessing their distorting and/or enabling influence on our personhood and reflexivity.

The book’s design reflects the text’s formal experimentation, playing on ideas of authorial identity and narrative dispersal, encouraging the reader to abandon traditional ways of reading and to embrace the disorienting freedom this facilitates.

Safe Mode is published in a limited edition of 350 copies, of which 26 slipcased copies are signed and lettered by the author, with additional holograph material.

£20/£50 + p&p. 147 x 215mm; 128pp;
28 black-and-white images
350 copies, incl. 26 special edition copies
Offset printed, section sewn exposed spine + dust jacket
Designed by Matthew Stuart
ISBN: 978-0-9935693-3-3

Standard Edition
Special Edition

About Sam Riviere

Sam Riviere is the author of the poetry collections 81 Austerities (Faber, 2012), Standard Twin Fantasy (Egg Box, 2014), Kim Kardashian’s Marriage (Faber, 2015), and True Colours (After Hours, 2016). He also wrote an ‘unprintable book’ with the novelist Joe Dunthorne, The Truth About Cats & Dogs (Visual Editions, 2016), and a selection of his poetry will appear in Penguin Modern Poets 5 this summer. He lives in Edinburgh and runs the micropublisher If a Leaf Falls Press.

Test Centre publications featuring author