Seven Short Talks About Islands . . . and by islands I mean paragraphs.

Categories:  conference, lecture, performance, performance writing
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On Friday 14 March 2014 I will present a performance paper called “Seven Short Talks About Islands . . . and by islands I mean paragraphs” at MODULAR FORM: A SYMPOSIUM ON CREATIVE PRACTICE, a one-day symposium hosted by ReWrite, the Centre for Research in Creative and Professional Writing at Roehampton University, in conjunction with Writing-PAD.

…and by islands I mean paragraphs is a web-based work which is both composed and displayed in a modular format. A sea of white space extends far beyond the horizon of the browser window, to the north, south, east and west. Navigating (with mouse, track pad, or arrow keys) reveals that this sea is dotted with islands… and by islands I mean computer-generated paragraphs. These fluid JavaScript compositions draw upon variable strings containing fragments of text harvested from a vast literary corpus ­– Deluze’s Desert Islands, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Bishop’s Crusoe in England, Coetzee’s Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and many other lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule. Individually, each of these textual islands represents a topic ­ from the Greek topos, meaning place. Collectively they constitute a topographical map of a sustained practice of reading and re-reading and writing and re-writing on the topic of islands. In this constantly shifting sea of variable texts one will never find the same island twice… and by islands, I really do mean paragraphs.

... and by islands I mean paragraphs || J. R. Carpenter 2013
… and by islands I mean paragraphs || J. R. Carpenter 2013

I will present this modular work in a modular format loosely informed by Anne Carson’s Short Talks and Judith Schalansky’s Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot On and Never Will. I will offer a brief introduction, and then navigate the work. As I come across textual islands I will offer short ‘talks’ on them. Each of these ‘talks’ will be composed of a selection of the fragments contained in that particular island’s variable strings.

For example, here is a ‘talk’ based on an island composed of fragments of text from “A Topical Paradise,” an essay by Hernán Díaz:

Islands are ['places that have become commonplaces', 'perfect topics', 'literal metaphors', 'possible only in literature']. Topical islands are ['figures of radical isolation', 'off the map', 'off the chart', 'always virgin', 'blind spots on the surface of the known', 'shrouded in obscurity’, ‘isolated in the present', 'silent', beyond time', 'in a time zone of their own']. They are paragraphs. They ['separate the narrative body from the referential mainland', 'separate the text from the writer's desk', 'separate the text from the reader's finger's', 'surround and enclose the text', 'create their own context']. They are [‘textual shores', 'marginal', 'not part of the central body of the text', 'a physical space on the page', 'engulfed in a textual sea'].

And here is a ‘talk’ based on an island composed of fragments of text from J. M. Coetzee’s novel Foe:

I am ['cast away', 'a castaway’, 'indeed cast away', 'not a bird of passage', 'not a prisoner', 'not a story', 'not persuaded', 'unknown to myself', 'wondering how I come to be here', 'saved', 'on an island yet', 'alone on the waves', 'alone', 'all alone', 'a woman alone', 'a woman cast ashore', 'a woman washed ashore', 'a free woman', 'now a madwoman', 'waiting for the book to be written that will set me free'].

... and by islands I mean paragraphs || J. R. Carpenter 2013
… and by islands I mean paragraphs || J. R. Carpenter 2013

Practitioners have been invited to MODULAR FORM: A SYMPOSIUM ON CREATIVE PRACTICE from a diverse range of fields, including digital writing, performance art, curatorial studies, poetry, music, and psychoanalysis, to discuss the deployment of short and/or minimal units of text.

MODULAR FORM CONTRIBUTORS AND TEXTS

J.R. Carpenter, “Seven Short Talks About Islands …and by islands I mean paragraphs.”

Vincent Dachy, “Free Associations! Or Weaving with the Wind.”

James Davies, “Minimalism and Modularity.”

Rupert Loydell and Kingsley Marshall, “CONTROL & SURRENDER. Eno Remixed: Collaboration & Oblique Strategies.”

Kaja Marczewska, “Modular form as a Curatorial Practice.”

Nathan Walker, “Six Words Short: Textual Instruction Events.”

ROEHAMPTON UNIVERSITY

The symposium will be held at Grove House on the main campus of Roehampton University on Friday, March 14, 2014, from 10 am to 5 pm.

The symposium is free but places are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment. The event includes a catered lunch.

TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE]

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, launch, Writing Coastlines
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At an excellent international conference on Translating E-Literature, which took place at Université Paris 8 in June 2012, I presented a paper which situated the process of adapting Nick Montfort’s 1k story generator story2.py (2008) into my web-based work TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] (2011) in terms of an extended notion of translation.

An adaptation of that paper is available for download here: Translation, transmutation, transmediation, and transmission in ‘TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]‘ (PDF)

TRANS.MISSIONTRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a computer-generated dialogue, a literary narrative in the form of a conversation, a discourse propagating across, beyond and through long-distance communications networks created and necessitated by generations of transatlantic migration. One JavaScript file sits in one directory on one server attached to a vast network of hubs, routers, switches, and submarine cables through which this one file may be accessed many times from many places by many devices. Each time this JavaScript is called, the network, the browser, and the client-side CPU conspire to respond with a new iteration. The mission of the JavaScript source code is to generate another sort of script, a dialogue to be read aloud in three voices: Call, Response, and Interference; or: Strophe, Antistrophe, and Chorus; or Here, There, and Somewhere in Between. This multi-site-specific dialogue resonates in the spaces between places separated by time, distance, and ocean, yet inextricably linked by generations of immigration.

Although the translation of natural languages was not my focus in the paper I presented at Translating E-Literature, the inextricable association between language and nation necessitated the question: Were this work translated into French, would the location of memory also be translated, or re-placed, to reflect generations transatlantic migration from France to Nouvelle France? Would Cornwall be replaced with Bretagne, Nova Scotia with Acadie?

In 2013 TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] was translated into French by Ariane Savoie, a PhD student at Université Québec à Montréal, for a special translation issue of bleuOrange, a Montreal-based online journal of ‘littérature hypermédiatique,’ which launched at the Electronic Literature Organization conference Chercher le texte in Paris 23-26 September 2013. Here is a direct link to Ariane Savoie’s truly remarkable translation: TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE].

Ariane Savoie presenting her translation of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] at Chercher le texte in Paris, September 2013
IMAGE: Ariane Savoie presenting her translation TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE] at Chercher le texte, Paris, September 2013

In personal correspondence Savoie shared certain thoughts on her process, which I synthesise here. A strict translation of all the English variables into French equivalents would have resulted in subject-verb gender disagreements, the resolution of which would require considerable modification to the source code, which, Savoie felt, would have diminished the variability of the generator and the structure of the piece. Instead, Savoie elected to respect the structure of the source code. Gender conflicts were avoided by the population of strings with variables from only one gender, letting go of any variables that didn’t have the exact equivalent in that gender in French. Initially, this resulted in an eradication of the gender variable altogether. Eventually, a compromise was reached in which two versions of certain variable strings were created, that both masculine and feminine proper nouns might be called at different points in the script.

Although the gender variable represented by the string var heshe=['he','she']; is not carried over into Savoie’s translation, something of the either/or binarism of that string endures, both through the introduction of gender variables through other means, as cited above, and through the variable string var place=, in which, the location of each place named is either on one side of the Atlantic or the other: Canada or England, Acadie or France, the new world or the old, home or away.

Many thanks et merci to Ariane Savoie, Alice van der Klei, et toute l’équipe de bleuOrange, and to Yves Abrioux and Arnaud Regnauld, co-organisers of Translating E-Literature.

LINKS:

Nick Montfort (2008) story2.py

Nick Montfort (2008) The Two

J. R. Carpenter (2011) TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Ariane Savoi (2013) TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE]

J. R. Carpenter (2012) Translation, transmutation, transmediation, and transmission in ‘TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]‘ (PDF)

A Non-Linear Timeline of Twenty Years Online

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November 2013 will mark twenty years since I got my first UNIX account. Things have changed a lot since then. The more proprietary, predatory, and puerile a place the internet becomes, the more committed I am to using it in poetic and intransigent ways. Over the next few months I will be looking for ways to use this anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on the dialectic between how far we’ve come, and how very far we have to go.

The following non-linear timeline of twenty years online is an expanded version of my contribution to “Aura in the Age of Computational Production,” a roundtable discussion with with Kathi Inman Berens, J. R. Carpenter, Leonardo Flores, David Jhave Johnston, Jason Edward Lewis, Erik Loyer, and Nick Montfort, to be held at Chercher le texte, ELO Paris 2013.

On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

July 1993. The New Yorker published a cartoon by Peter Steiner depicting a dog sitting at a computer informing another dog sitting on the floor that: On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

November 1993. I got my first Unix account in order to participate alt.arts.nomad, the USENET component of an exhibition by Ingrid Bachmann called Nomad Web: Sleeping Beauty awakes, which was the first networked-art project in Canada, as far as I know. On the internet, nobody knew I was a fiction writer. Not even me.

May 1995. I graduated from Concordia University, in Montreal, Quebec, with a BFA in Studio Art, with a concentration in Fibres and Sculpture, with distinction, approximately 1.1 months after Netscape Navigator 1.1 was released.

November 1995. I made my first web art writing project during a thematic residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts, as The Banff Centre was then known. The theme of the residency was Telling Stories: Telling Tales. I told them I was a writer, and they believed me. The web piece I made there was called Fishes and Flying Things. It remediated a paper zine printed from a QuarkExpress file stored on a 44 MB SyQuest cartridge which I still own but the contents of which I can no longer access. The images were digital scans of photocopies of borrowed books no longer in my possession. The text was based on the title of an installation art exhibition I had work included in Montreal at the time, of which, other than an event poster, no physical or documentary evidence remains. Upon my return from Banff to Montreal, my artist friends informed me that web-based work was elitist, because so few people could access it, and my writer friends assured me that the internet would never catch on. Fishes and Flying Things is still online and it still works.

November 1998. I gave an artist’s talk called A Little Talk About Reproduction at a web art exhibition called Maid in Cyberspace – Encore!, hosted by Studio XX, a feminist artist-run centre for technological exploration, creation and critique founded in Montreal in 1996. This talk reflected on the formal transition I’d made from zine to web, from the vast perspective offered by the passage of three whole years. On the internet, nobody knows how far we’ve come.

February 2010. I gave an artist’s talk called A Little Talk About Reproduction at In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge, a gathering held at The Banff Centre. The first talk had been prognostic, to use Walter Benjamin’s term. By the time of the second, we might say that everything expected of the future had long since transpired. Except, we had no idea what to expect. We might say that in the age of computational production longevity lends aura to a work. Except. On the internet, nobody knows how far we have left to go.

June 2008. I made a web-based work called in absentia with the support of Dare-Dare, an artist-run centre which, at that time, was operating out of a trailer in a vacant lot in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. The launch event was a six-hour outdoor neighbourhood block party attended by over a thousand people. The work was projected on the underside of a viaduct. There were DJ’s and bar-tenders and Port-o-Let portable toilets rented especially for the occasion. The police came six times. No arrests were made.

November 2012. Alexandra Saemmer suggested, in Evaluating digital literature: social networks, selection processes and criteria, a paper presented at Remediating the Social, Edinburgh, that in absentia“>in absentia can be considered part of the cannon because it is contained in certain academically-funded collections of digital literature. Which lends more aura to a digital work, a canonical status inferred from inclusion in collections, or hired Port-o-Lets and a police presence?

At 4:40PM on 1 April 2012. Andy Campbell tweeted a link to a blog post called The closed circles of elit in which he wrote: “I can’t see how electronic literature can really evolve though without being exposed to an audience outside of academia.”

At 4PM on 2 April 2012 I tweeted: “as an author of web-based #elit I’ve always assumed my audience to be people at work who are supposed to be doing other things“. William Gibson @GreatDismal re-tweeted this, to his 100,000 followers.

On the day I sat down to write this timeline, I Googled “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” On the internet, it says this is the most reproduced New Yorker cartoon of all time. Steiner has earned over $50,000 from its reprinting.

Endnote: The title “Aura in the Age of Computational Production” refers to Walter Benjamin’s essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935). As the somewhat tongue-in-cheek tone of this timeline may suggest, I find the question of whether or not a work of digital literature can have “aura” to to be a non-nonsensical one. is computationally produced a new each and every time it is called upon for display on screen. The We can say a digital work may gain “aura” by virtue of its ‘spreadability,’ a concept put forth by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green in Spreadable Media, but we won’t mean what Benjamin meant.

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, exhibition, launch
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Announcing Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, a brand new work of web-based computer-generated digital literature created especially for “Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature,” curated by Dene Grigar & Kathi Inman Berens. The exhibition will be held in conjunction with the MLA 2013 Convention in Boston, 3-5 January 2013, but the website – containing links to 30 new born digital works and a plethora of resources pertaining to born digital literature – is online now: Avenues of Access: An Exhibit & Online Archive of New ‘Born Digital’ Literature

J. R. Carpenter || Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl [detail]

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events, persons, places or texts is entirely intentional. Details from many a high sea story have been netted by this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of sea voyages into the unknown North undertaken over the past 2340 years. At the furthest edge of this assemblage floats the fantastical classical island of Ultima Thule and the strange phenomenon known to the Romans as sea lung. The main characters are sprung from Edward Leer’s Victorian nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussycat. A lazy and somewhat laconic owl and a girl most serious, most adventurous, most determined, have set sail toward this strange sea in a boat of pea-, bottle-, lima-bean- or similar shade of green. The cartographic collage they voyage through collects the particularities of a number of fluid floating places – as described or imagined in sources as diverse as Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries and the children’s poem Wynken, Blynken and Nod – and reacontextualizes them in an obviously awkward assemblage of discontinuous surfaces pitted with points of departure, escape routes, lines of flight.

For more information on the source texts, maps, and codes pillaged for this work, please see Notes on Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl.

Along the Briny Beach included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, launch, poetry, publication
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My web-based computer-generated narrative / poem / performance machine, Along the Briny Beach, is included in the ELMCIP Anthology of European Electronic Literature, edited by Maria Engberg, Talan Memmott, and David Prater. The anthology officially launched with the distribution of USB drives at the ELMICP conference Remediating the Social, which took place in Edinburgh, 1-3 November 2012, and is now available online: http://anthology.elmcip.net

ELMCIP Anthology USB

Of Along the Briny Beach, the ELMCIP Anthology editors have this to say:

Using scripts both generative and performative, the work is a continuous rewriting of itself. Though much of the text is appropriated from other sources –Conrad, Carroll, and Charles Darwin – we can still call Carpenter the author of the work due to the intentional selection of appropriated texts and their rearrangement, or reconfiguration as Along the Briny Beach. From the consistency in selected works – all have to do with the sea – to the sea foam green color palette; Carpenter presents text as integration between writing, function, and design.

The ELMCIP Anthology contains works by 18 authors, as well as a selection of videos, essays, syllabi, and other teaching materials pertaining to Electronic Literature. For more information about ELMCIP, visit: http://elmcip.net/

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, exhibition, launch, performance, Writing Coastlines
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Announcing The Broadside of a Yarn, a new hybrid print-digital-performance-writing work by J. R. Carpenter, commissioned by ELMCIP for Remediating the Social, launching at Inspace in Edinburgh 1 November 2012.

In theory, The Broadside of a Yarn is a multi-modal performative pervasive networked narrative attempt to chart fictional fragments of new and long-ago stories of near and far-away seas with naught but a QR code reader and an unbound atlas of hand-made maps of dubious accuracy. In practice, this project is, in a Situationist sense, a willfully absurd endeavour. How can I, a displaced native of rural Nova Scotia (New Scotland), perform the navigation of a narrative route through urban Edinburgh (Old Scotland)? How can any inhabitant of dry land possibly understand the constantly shifting perspective of stories of the high seas?

The Broadside of a Yarn

The Broadside of a Yarn remediates the broadside, a form of networked narrative popular from 16th century onward. Broadsides were written on a wide range of topical subjects, cheaply printed on single sheets of paper (often with images), widely distributed, and posted and performed in public. During the Remediating the Social exhibition (Inspace, Edinburgh, 1-25 November 2012), The Broadside of a Yarn will be posted as a grid of A3-sized square maps, and freely distributed as broadside-sized sheet (while supplies last).

Like the printed broadside ballads of old, the public posting of The Broadside of a Yarn signifies that it is intended to be performed. Embedded within the highly visual cartographic space of this printed map are QR codes which link mobile devices to a collection of separate yet interrelated web pages containing computer-generated narrative dialogues. They may propose imprecise and possibly impossible walking routes through the city. Or they may serve as scripts for poli-vocal performances.

The Broadside of a Yarn

The Broadside of a Yarn will be performed in four or possibly five voices (microphone availability depending) Thursday 1st November 20.00 in the Sculpture Court of Edinburgh College of Art. For more information, please see the Remediating the Social program.

A comprehensive overview of the Remediating the Social conference and exhibition has bee posted on Electronic Literature Authoring Software by Judy Malloy: ELMCIP Invites Scholars and Artists to Remediating the Social, Edinburgh, November 1-3, 2012

For more information – including a bibliography of the wide range of maps and literary works cited in The Broadside of a Yarn – and to view more images of the print maps to be installed at Inspace, please visit Luckysoap.com.

A retrospective: A perspective: Going on 20 years online

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A retrospective of my digital literary work was presented at Electrifying Literature: Affordances & Constraints, the Electronic Literature Organization’s 2012 Media Art Show which took place in conjunction with the ELO’s conference in Morgantown, WV, USA, 20-23 June 2012.

A retrospective? Of digital literature? Of my digital literature? Doesn’t quite seem real. In part because Morgantown, West Virginia, is some 6000 miles from where I’m presently sitting. I missed my own retrospective! This, I really can’t believe.

There have been quips of course. Aren’t you a little young for a retrospective? Thanks people, really, I mean it. In internet years I’m approximately 188 years old. But I’ve only been on line about 140 of those years. So, let’s say I got on line when I was 12 or so. Yeah, let’s go with that.

The Electronic Literature Organization retrospective focuses on relatively recent work, from 2005 from the present, including:

The Cape (2005)
Entre Ville (2006)
in absentia (2008)
CityFish (2010)
Along the Briny Beach (2011)
STRUTS (2011)
TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] (2011)

For a bit of perspective, I’ve dug out some odds and ends from my early years online – some of it about my work, some of it about the work of other artists or organizations, some of it dating from before the visual web, some of it embarrassing to me now, but… what the heck.

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ID card for internet account in Concrordia’s PAVO Lab.

Fishes & Flying Things (first web-based project, made at the The Banff Centre in 1995)

A Little Talk About Reproduction (drafted as an artist’s talk presented at Studio XX 1998, reworked various times over the years)

A brief history of the Internet as I know it so far (written in 2002 or so, published in Fishpiss in 2003)

“Digital Crustaceans v.0.2: Homesteading on the Web,” Ingrid Bachmann, Gallery Articule, Main Gallery, Montréal, Québec, April 4 – May 4 2003. (art review, published in Fuse in 2004)

Bi-Coastal (short story based on the 3-year stint I spent working undercover in corporate web development)

Getting in on the Ground Floor: A Hazy History of How and Why We Banded Together (written for xxxboîte, an artifact produced in celebration of the first ten years of Studio XX, Montréal, QC, October 2007)

The Cape: The Backstory (about how incredibly long it took me to make The Cape).

Some days it doesn’t seem possible that I’ve been working on line going on twenty years. Many, many thanks to the curators Dene Grigar & Sandy Baldwin for noticing.

Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints

J. R. Carpenter Retrospective

Three conferences in June. That’s a lot.

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, festival, performance
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I’m off to Paris tomorrow to present at two conferences handily scheduled back to back. The first is &Now 2012 | New Writing in Paris: exchanges and cross-fertilizations, Université de la Sorbonne, Paris, June 6-10, 2012. There I will present a performance and a short paper on a new work called There he was, gone., which be published in Joyland Poetry any day now, or so the editors tell me. More on that when it comes out.

The second Paris conference is Translating E-Literature | Université Paris 8 Vincennes-Saint-Denis/Université Paris Diderot, June 12-14 2012. There I will present a paper called Translation, Transmutation, Transmediation, and Transmission in TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]. This paper deals mostly with the translation from one code language to another. I will present immediately following Nick Montfort, which is nerve wracking as TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a transmutation of his work The Two and as such I spend most of my paper writing about his work. I have a really hard time referring to friends in the third person, especially when they’re in the room.

A little later in June, a retrospective of my work will be shown during Electrifying Literature: Affordances & Constraints, the Electronic Literature Organization conference and exhibition to be held at the University of West Virginia, Morgantown, USA June 2012. I’m immensely chuffed about this, naturally. Many thanks to the curators Dene Grigar & Sandy Baldwin. Sadly, I cannot afford to attend the conference, but I will join one panel via skype – a panel on re-mixing Taroko Gorge – another work by Nick Montfort, which I have remixed three times, resulting in: Gorge, Whisper Wire & Along the Briny Beach.

As a lead up the the Electronic Literature Organization conference, Leonardo Flores has written a series of posts about work which will be in the exhibition, including my works: TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE], Along the Briny Beach, The Cape, and Entre Ville. Thank you Leonardo.

June is shaping up to be one heck of a month.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Categories:  conference, electronic literature, exhibition, launch
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TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] || J. R. Carpenter TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a computer-generated dialogue, a literary narrative of generations of transatlantic migration, a performance in the form of a conversation, an encoded discourse propagating across, beyond, and through long-distance communications networks. One JavaScript file sits in one directory on one server attached to a vast network of hubs, routers, switches, and submarine cables through which this one file may be accessed many times from many places by many devices. The mission of this JavaScript is to generate another sort of script. The call “function produce_stories()” produces a response in the browser, a dialogue to be read aloud in three voices: Call, Response, and Interference; or: Strophe, Antistrophe, and Chorus; or Here, There, and Somewhere in Between.

Strophe sets out from east to west on a treacherous mission, across high seas and frozen wastes, in search of a Northwest passage, in hopes of trade routes, and fountains of eternal youth. And Antistrophe returns from west to east with scurvy, captive natives, and furs. Neither ever arrives. Both only just barely finish leaving. Likewise a reader can never quite reach the end of this TRANS.MISSION. Mid-way through a new version is generated. The sentence structures stay the same, but all their variables change. Relations shift as time passes, so that we have immigrants now, where once we had explorers; a persistent tap eclipses a strange whir; a message instead of a passage; Nova Scotia in place of Scotland; a submarine cable replaces a shipping network. How different is the narrative of one journey from the next?

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is a transmutation of Nick Montfort’s The Two, a narrative text generator written in Python and then translated to JavaScript by Montfort in 2008. The decision to hack rather than craft code anew was a deliberate one. Though the nature and form of Montfort’s narrative were substantially transformed in the creation of the Python version of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE], and then further in the translation of the transmutation into JavaScript, something of the uncanny twinning of characters at work in The Two underpinned Something of the uncanny twinning of characters at work in Montfort’s The Two underpinned my process production; my hack transforms Montfort’s source code into a code medium, sending and receiving dialogue on and through media haunted by generations of past usage.

Speaking of past usage, TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] was first performed live at Aesthetic strategies as critical interventions, followed by a discussion panel chaired by Rita Raley. This event took place at Perdu Theater, Kloveniersburgwal 86, Amsterdam, 10 December 2011, in conjunction with an ELMCIP Seminar on Digital Poetics and the Present, hosted by University of Amsterdam, 9-10 December 2011

A short performance of and research paper about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] will be presented at Network Archaeology, hosted by Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, USA 19-21 April, 2012.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] will be included in an upcoming retrospective of my work presented by Electrifying Literature: Affordances and Constraints, in conjunction with the Electronic Literature Organization Conference, at The Art Museum of West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, 20-23 June 2012.

More information about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] may be found in this artist’s statement.

View the work online here: TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Writing Coastlines: Estuaries, Islands and Beaches as Liminal Spaces in the Writings of Elizabeth Bishop

Categories:  conference, Writing Coastlines

Earlier in June I presented at a conference called “It must be Nova Scotia:” Negotiating Place in the Writings of Elizabeth Bishop, held at University of King’s College, Halifax, Nova Scotia June 10-12, 2011.

Bishop Conference

My paper examined instances in the writings of Elizabeth Bishop wherein coastlines are evoked in order to refer to a psychological subjective state – conscious or unconscious – of being on the threshold between places.

In her poem, “The Moose,” Bishop writes a coastline of extreme contrasts to evoke the liminal condition of migration, of being in transition, of being of and in-between places, on a long bus ride along a coastal road stretching between home and away:

home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats’
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets

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A red sea. Mud flats. Lavender water. Bishop uses strikingly similar language to describe a nearby coastline in her short story, In the Village:

There are the tops of all the elm trees in the village and there, beyond them, the long green marshes, so fresh, so salt. Then the Minas Basin, with the tide halfway in or out, the wet red mud glazed with sky blue until it meets the creeping lavender-red water…

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The site of this sight is geographically the furthest point from the epicentre of the story. The evocation of estuarine overlaps, mixtures and contradictions at this moment serves both to enunciate an internal emotional confusion within the narrator, and to project the narration beyond the geographical confines of the village.

We are in the “Maritimes” but all that means is that we live by the sea.

This liminal coastline writes a possible future, a point of departure, a line of flight. If all being “in the Maritimes” means is living by the sea then one can be in or from the Maritimes living by any sea. Indeed, Bishop wrote In the Village in Brazil, a place that reminded her of Nova Scotia but, importantly, most certainly was not.

I grew up in Nova Scotia. I left twenty-one years ago. I live in England now, which reminds me of Nova Scotia, but, importantly, most certainly is not. It was both delightful and terrifying to return to “narrow provinces / of fish and bread and tea” to present an academic paper to a conference of specialists. Good for the confidence, to have it come out well in the end.

For more information about the conference, view the program.