The Gathering Cloud

The Gathering Cloud is a new hybrid print and web-based work by J. R. Carpenter commissioned by NEoN Digital Arts Festival, which takes place in Dundee, UK, 9-13 November 2016.

This work aims to address the environmental impact of so-called ‘cloud’ computing through the oblique strategy of calling attention to the materiality of the clouds in the sky. Both are commonly perceived to be infinite resources, at once vast and immaterial; both, decidedly, are not.

Fragments from Luke Howard’s classic “Essay on the Modifications of Clouds” (1803) as well as more recent online articles and books on media and the environment are pared down into hyptertextual hendecasyllabic verses. These are situated within surreal animated gif collages composed of images materially appropriated from publicly accessible cloud storage services.

The Gathering Cloud
The Gathering Cloud – a new hybrid print and web-based work by J. R. Carpenter

The cognitive dissonance between the cultural fantasy of cloud storage and the hard facts of its environmental impact is bridged, in part, through the constant evocation of animals: A cumulus cloud weighs one hundred elephants. A USB fish swims through a cloud of cables. Four million cute cat pics are shared each day. A small print iteration of “The Gathering Cloud” shared through gift, trade, mail art, and small press economies further confuses boundaries between physical and digital, scarcity and waste.

The Gathering Cloud
The print iteration of The Gathering Cloud

The Gathering Cloud was commissioned by NEoN Digital Arts Festival, Dundee, UK, 9-13 November 2016. Many thanks to the curators Sarah Cook and Donna Holford-Lovell. Portions of this text were first performed at the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution during the South West Poetry Tour, 1-8 August 2016. Thanks and curses to Annabel Banks for sugesting the hendecasyllabic constraint. Thanks to Kay Lovelace, Rachel McCarthy, Michael Saunby, and the fine folks at the Informatics Lab at the Met Office for tips, tricks, and discussions on code and the weather. And thanks to Jerome Fletcher for everything else.

Further reading: NEoN speaks with JR Carpenter

View the work online here: The Gathering Cloud

Etheric Ocean – an underwater web art audio writing noise work commissioned by Electronic Voice Phenomena

Announcing Etheric Ocean – an underwater web art writing noise work by J. R. Carpenter commissioned by Electronic Voice Pheneomena, an experimental literature and new media project exploring contemporary approaches to sound, voice, technology and writing, brought to you by Mercy and Penned in the Margins.

Etheric Ocean || J. R. Carpenter

Ether is a hypothetical medium – supposed by the ancients to fill the heavens, proposed by scientist to account for the propagation of electromagnetic radiation through space. The notion of ‘ocean’ was once as vague. Aristotle perceived of the world as a small place, bounded by a narrow river. Columbus believed the Atlantic was a much shorter distance across than we now know it to be. Even as early electromagnetic telegraphic and wireless transmissions propagating over, under, and through oceans collapsed distances between ships and shores, they revealed vast new oceans – oceans of static, oceans of noise.

Etheric Ocean is an imprecise survey of sounds both animal and mechanical, and of signs both real and imaginary, of distortions born of the difficulty of communicating through the medium of deep dense dark ocean. Like stations dotting a radio dial, murky diagrams, shifting definitions, appropriated texts, nautical associations, and wonky word plays are strung along a very long, horizontally scrolling browser window. This is a world of inversions. Sounds are deep harbours, or are they depths? Sounds purposefully unfold. Out of its element, uncannily airborne, a flying jellyfish drone wobbles about. Noises are made. Islands are Heard.

For more information about Etheric Ocean, see the Electronic Voice Pheneomena website, and follow @jr_carpneter @_EVP and search for #ethericocean on Twitter.

Many thanks to Nathan Jones, Lisa Robertson, and all the other authors, audio artists, oceanographers, and mad inventors whose words and sounds I borrowed. A link to a fuller list of sources can be found within the work:

Etheric Ocean, J. R. Carpenter, 2014.

#ethericocean

TRANS.MISSION [UN.DIALOGUE]

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)

. . . and by islands I mean paragraphs.

. . . and by islands I mean paragraphs casts a reader a drift in a sea of white space extending far beyond the horizon of the browser window, to the north, south, east and west. Navigating (with mouse, track pad, arrow keys, or touchscreen) reveals that this sea is dotted with islands… and by islands I mean paragraphs. These paragraphs are computer-generated. Their fluid compositions draw upon variable strings containing fragments of text harvested from a larger 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 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 is 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 islands. In this constantly shifting sea of variable texts one never finds the same islands twice… and by islands, I do mean paragraphs.

...and by islands I mean paragraphs

…and by islands I mean paragraphs will launch at Les littératures numériques d’hier à demain, an exhibition of digital literature to take place at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in conjunction with Chercher le texte, Paris, France, 24 September – 1 December 2013.

Chercher le texte Virtual Gallery

View …and by islands I mean paragraphs

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

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

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

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.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

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]

STRUTS – new digital literature commissioned by SFMoMA

STRUTS is a new work of digital literature commissioned for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. This commission is the latest in a series of new works featured on SFMoMA’s Open Space blog, in an excellent column on digital literature by Brian Stefans called: Third Hand Plays. Since the start of the series in July 2011, works have been commissioned from Daniel C. Howe, Alan Bigelow, joerg piringer, Alison Clifford, Erik Loyer, Benjamin Moreno Ortiz, Jhave, Christine Wilks and Jason Nelson. Forthcoming are new works from David Clark and Brian Stefans. I’m thrilled to keep such fantastic company. STRUTS launched on September 15, 2011. Posts to Third Hand Plays will wrap up at the end of September but I suspect the column with enjoy a long afterlife as an accessible, resource-full and fully engaged set of commentaries, concepts and links and resources of interest to digital literature practitioners and newcomers alike.

STRUTS || J. R. Carpenter

STRUTS is an algorithmic collage created from a collection of fragments of facts and fictions pertaining to a place and its people, history, geography and storm events. Narrative resonates in the spaces between the texts horizontally scrolling across the screen, the flickering updating of monthly tide gauge averages, the occasional appearance of live weather weather warnings pulled in by RSS feed and the animated set of photographs of the ends of the struts that support the seawall that protects the foreshore in front of Linda Rae Dornan’s cottage from the rising tides of the Northumberland Strait. The photographs were taken on May 23, 2011 the second day of a five-week stint as Open Studio Artist in Residence at Struts Gallery and Faucet Media Lab, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada, May 22 – June 26, 2011.

STRUTS. STRUCTURAL MEMBERS, AS IN TRUSSES, PRIMARILY INTENDED TO RESIST LONGITUDINAL COMPRESSION. EMBANKMENTS MEANT TO PREVENT EROSION OF SHORELINES. BRACE OR SUPPORT BY MEANS OF STRUTS OR SPURS. SPURS. OBLIQUE REINFORCING PROPS OR STAYS OF TIMBER OR MASONRY. ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT. ON IMPULSE. SPURS TO ACTION. STRUTS. WALKS WITH HEAD ERECT AND CHEST THROWN OUT, AS IF EXPECTING TO IMPRESS OBSERVERS. WITH PROUD BEARING. PARADES, FLOURISHES. STRUTS AND SWAGGERS. STRUTS GALLERY. SUPPORTS BY MEANS OF STRUTS. STRUCTURAL MEMBERS SPUR STRUTS TO ART ACTION. WALKS WITH HEAD ERECT ALONG LONGITUDINAL EMBANKMENTS. SEAWALLS BRACED BY SPURS. STAYS. PREVENT EROSION. OF MOMENTS. OBLIQUELY.

[an excerpt from STRUTS, by J. R. Carpenter, commissioned for SFMoMA, launched September 15, 2011.]

Entre Ville and in absentia included in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two

Two of my web-based works – Entre Ville and in absentia – are included in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two, which launched in February 2011. [Prese Release]

ELC2

I’m thrilled that Entre Ville and in absentia appear together in this collection. In many ways, they are the before and after pictures of my old neighbourhood, Mile End, Montreal, where I lived for seventeen years.

Entre Ville was commissioned in 2006 by OBORO, an artist-run centre in Montreal, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Conseil des Arts de Montreal. Although I had lived in Montreal for 15 years at the time of the commission, Entre Ville was my first major work about my adopted city. It took me that long to learn the vocabulary. I don’t mean French, or Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Yiddish or any of the other languages spoken in my neighbourhood. I refer, rather, to a visual, tactile, aural, sensorial vocabulary. My home office window opens into a jumbled intimacy of back balconies, yards, gardens and alleyways. Daily my dog and I walk through this interior city sniffing out stories. Poetry is not hard to find between the long lines of peeling-paint fences plastered with notices, spray painted with bright abstractions and draped with trailing vines. Entre Ville is a web-based heat-wave poem presented in the vernacular of my neighbourhood, where cooking smells, noisy neighbours and laundry lines crisscross the alleyway one sentence at a time.

In an intimacy
born of proximity
the old Greek lady and I
go about our business.
Foul-mouthed for seventy,
her first-floor curses fill
my second-floor apartment;
her constant commentary
punctuates my day.

Six months after the launch of Entre Ville, the “star” of Entre Ville, “the old Greek lady,” was evicted from the apartment where she and her husband had lived for twenty-three years. Many long-time low-income tenants were being forced out of the neighbourhood. Fiction was the only way I felt I could give voice to their stories. Our stories – I felt certain my time would come soon enough.

in absentia is a multi-authored multi-lingual site-specific web-based writing project which addresses issues of gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. Faced with imminent eviction, I began to write as if I was no longer there, about a Mile End that was no longer there. I manipulated the Google Maps API to populated “real” satellite images of my neighbourhood with “fictional” characters and events. in absentia is a web “site” haunted by the stories of former residents of Mile End, a slightly fantastical world, a shared memory of the neighbourhood as it never really was but as it could have been. in absentia was created in 2008 with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. It was presented by DARE-DARE Centre de diffusion d’art multidisciplinaire de Montréal. It launched June 24, 2008. New stories were added over the summer, in English and French. A closing party was held in conjunction with the launch of my novel, Words the Dog Knows, (conundrum press), at Sky Blue Door, November 7, 2008.

This is the second collection published by the Electronic Literature Organization. The Electronic Literature Collection Volume One, edited by N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg and Stephanie Strickland, also included one of my works – The Cape. The long-awaited Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two, edited by Laura Borràs, Talan Memmott, Rita Raley, and Brian Kim Stefans, includes 63 works from Austria, Australia, Catalonia, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Israel, The Netherlands, Portugal, Peru, Spain, UK, and USA; written in Catalan, Dutch, English, French, German, Portuguese, and Spanish; Flash, Processing, Java, JavaScript, Inform, HTML, and C++.

ELC2 speaks to both the continuity as well as the bright future of electronic literature. The works include many of the emerging categories of e-lit: mash-ups, geolocative, codework, as well as “traditional” and evolving forms such as hypertext, chatbots, and interactive fiction. The authors list presents readers with both veterans and newcomers to the field.
Electronic Literature Collection Volume Two