OBORO’s 25th Anniversary – April 18 – May 2, 2009

To celebrate the creative energy that has been flowing through OBORO over the past 25 years and, most of all, to express our deep gratitude to our community, artists and partners, we are organizing a great party with an opening banquet, performances, a garden-exhibition, a day for children, an art auction, an outdoor ceremony and many more surprises.

Let the festivities begin… and continue!

Banquet and Gallery Opening
Saturday, April 18, 2009, at 5pm

You are invited to a banquet launching our 25th anniversary festivities! Join us in celebrating the creative energy that has been flowing through OBORO over the past 25 years as we express our deep gratitude to our community, artists and partners.

Spring winds have breezed into our preparations: on the night of April 18th, OBORO completes its transformation into a lush and cheerful garden. Multicoloured platters will carry succulent fragrances and exquisite morsels as an offering to guests and friends. Throughout the evening, bustling performances, sparks of music and magical winks will flutter by, and each visitor will receive a special edition work created for the occasion.

Masters of Ceremony: Pierre Beaudoin and Claudine Hubert

Opening banquet performers: Yves Alavo and Mehdi Benboubakeur, Choeur Maha, Raf Katigbak, Cheryl Sim, Roger Sinha, Ziya Tabassian

Oboros’ Art Auction
Saturday, April 18, 2009, 5pm to 11pm

The works created for the exhibition will be on auction from 5pm to 11pm on Saturday April 18th. Proceeds of all sales will go towards OBORO’s endowment fund, created so that OBORO can continue its significant support of artists and the art community over the years to come. For a sneak peek of the works you’ll have a chance to bid on, visit: oboros album

Saturday, April 18, 2009 – Saturday, May 2, 2009

From April 18th to May 2nd, the gallery will be transformed into a luxuriant garden, populated with oboros grown from the imagination of more than a hundred artists. While meandering through the exhibition, visitors will discover surprising and engaging works of every stripe and be offered a flavourful cup of hot tea served by no less than the world-famous “Trolley Bus,” master of ceremonies of the World Tea Party. And somewhere in the middle of the garden safari, the small exhibition room will await inspired visitors who wish to create their own oboro.

Children’s Day
Saturday, April 25, 2009, at 2pm

On Saturday, April 25, from 2pm to 4pm, parents and children are invited to drop by the workshop and create an oboro in the company of a facilitator. In order to rejuvenate creative perspectives and quicken critical eyes, the children, following their whims, will offer guided tours of the exhibit to the adults.

Performance by Claude-Marie Caron
Saturday, April 25, 2009, at 4pm

Inspired by Lautréamont’s famous words “beautiful as the fortuitous encounter of an umbrella and a sewing machine on a dissection table,” Beau comme is constructed as an allegorical self-portrait of Claude-Marie Caron as he celebrates 25 years of OBORO. Inventor of the name and member of OBORO’s first Board of Directors, Claude-Marie Caron is a multidisciplinary artist, a performer, a tailor and a master-teacher of Tai-Chi.

Closing Ceremony
Saturday, May 2, 2009, at 3pm
at La Fontaine Park (corner of Rachel and Parc-La Fontaine)

For the Closing Ceremony, OBORO’s garden relocates to Parc La Fontaine, where everyone is invited to join for an outdoor picnic and to attend a planting of a tree in the parc. As an inspiration to future decades and an offering to the community, this tree encompasses OBORO’s mission: to contribute to our collective heritage and to a culture of peace.


For the 25th Anniversary, artists and close collaborators of OBORO have banded together to create the Manifestoboro, a collaborative nursery-rhyme/drawing/poem/manifesto for your pleasure and inspiration:

OBORO est un salon
OBORO is peace
OBORO is possibility
OBORO est un souffle
OBORO is an art family
OBORO est alimentaire
OBORO est l’arbre et la forêt
OBORO est un terrain de jeu
OBORO est un processus in process
OBORO is an ocean-in-motion
OBORO is a very old jade plant
OBORO est une tête chercheuse
OBORO is a big table in the sunlight
OBORO is a series of concentric circles
OBORO is living art, looking and listening
OBORO est tout ce qui n’est pas OBORO
OBORO is a bucket of toys waiting for kids
OBORO est un gâteau d’anniversaire rose et jaune
OBORO is a refreshing cup of tea served up in porcelaine
OBORO is food for thought and a feast for the eyes
OBORO is curious, challenging, déroutant et impromptu
OBORO est un « o » entre deux « o », un grand cercle, un oeil
OBORO est le lieu où se décline gracieusement ou furieusement le temps
OBORO de vie

Download the Manifestoboro (pdf)


Make a donation and receive an official receipt for income tax purposes!

For each dollar raised between now and July 30, 2009, OBORO will receive an additional $2,50!
Thanks to the support of the Placements Culture program at the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the Canadian Arts and Sustainability Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage. All proceeds will go towards OBORO’s endowment fund to help us continue supporting artists and the art community over the years to come.
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Book Launch – Art Textiles of the World: Canada

A recent essay by J.R. Carpenter entitled “Mapping Multiplicities: A Narrative of Contingences” has just been published in a new art book, launching on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles, 5800 St-Denis Studio 501, Montréal, at 5 pm.

Art Textiles of the World: Canada features essays by Alan Elder, Sandra Alfoldy, J.R. Carpenter, and Lisa Vinebaum, with a foreword by the Editor. The book is devoted especially to the work of twenty important Canadian artists who have developed a very personal language through their mastery of one or more of the various techniques in the field of textiles. The artists presented in the book are:

Jennifer Angus, Ingrid Bachmann, Sandra Brownlee, Dorothy Caldwell, Lyn Carter, Kai Chan, Barb Hunt, Barbara Layne, Louise Lemieux Bérubé, Marcel Marois, Mindy Yan Miller, Lesley Richmond, Ruth Scheuing, Joanne Soroka, Joanna Staniszkis, Patrick Traer, Barbara Todd, Laura Vickerson, Yvonne Wakabayashi and Susan Warner Keene.

From April 15 to May 22, 2009, the Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles (MCCT) will take advantage of the publishing of this prestigious book to bring together in its gallery examples of the work of these artists. The art works are varied: murals, sculptures, installations created through the use of new technologies, of traditional techniques and of unusual materials. It is a must-see inventory of creative contemporary Canadian textile art on show until May 22.

The launching of the book and the exhibition will be held on Wednesday, April 15, 2009, at Montreal Centre for Contemporary Textiles, 5800 St-Denis Studio 501, Montréal, at 5 pm.
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in absentia launch party under the Van Horne Viaduct

When Dare-Dare first accepted in absentia for their 2008 season, I was hoping it would launch sometime very late in the season. I had already committed to launching Tributaries & Text-Fed Streams in the spring and Words the Dog Knows in the fall so already 2008 was looking like a crazy year. But, as fate would have it, just as Dare-Dare was sending out notification that they’d accepted my project on gentrification in the Mile End, they received notification of their own eviction from the parc sans nom that has been their home in Mile End for the past few years. They had to be out by July 1st so it made sense to launch my project at the end of June as a farewell to the neighbourhood. When Dare-Dare proposed launching “in absentia” on June 24th, Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, I thought: What the hell – the national holiday thing will distract everyone if the work isn’t quite done.

Stéphane came home from work on Saturday and said: Hey, there are posters with your name on them all over the neighbourhood. Posters, I said. What a good idea. I had proofed a draft of a poster, but it hadn’t quite occurred to me that someone would then post the posters and that people would see them. Dare-Dare has been great to work with. By tacit mutual agreement, we don’t pester each other with details. They do their part and I do my part and somehow it all gets done. Stéphane said: Your event is being billed as the neighbourhood Saint-Jean Baptiste Day party. That’s a big deal, he assured me. One poster was in the exact location of one of the stories in absentia. Many dear friends of mine have lived in the building directly across the street over the years, and all have been evicted now.

Monday afternoon I took the long metro ride east to Pix IV for an interview on CIBL’s 4á6 show. CIBL is also a big deal, according to Stéphane – the last word in community radio in this town. Not only had I never heard of it, somehow I’d managed to live in Montréal for nearly 18 years without ever doing a live radio interview in French. How embarrassing. How terrifying. How did it go? Well, fine I think… but then how would I know? It was fun, at least. And there was a Village des Valeurs next door. After the interview went shopping for an outfit to wear to the launch party and with thrilled to find this four-dollar skirt.

Tuesday’s forecast called for 40% chance of showers. There were showers for 40% of the day. As I was leaving the apartment for tech set up at 2PM I said: It had better rain now and get it over with. It started to rain within seconds. After about twenty minutes it was over with and we had clear skies for the rest of the night.

Arriving at the sans nom the first thing I noticed was that a porto-pottie had been set up next to the Dare-Dare trailer. I was glad that they’d thought of it, I certainly hadn’t. I’ve never had a launch event large enough to require the procurement of a porto-pottie before. This career high was mediated somewhat by the realization that in absentia would be displayed throughout the launch event on two antique iMac computers. “They’re are already in the museum of 20th century design,” Dare-Dare director Jean-Pierre assured me as we set them up on a picnic table outside the Dare-Dare trailer. We had to run network cables out to them, because they were built before wireless networks existed. But the piece ran amazingly well on them, and really, what better computers to withstand nearly 12 hours outdoors in sun, wind, blowing grit and hundreds of beery users?

Hundreds did indeed show up. They came in waves, so at first I didn’t notice how the scale of the thing kept changing. I just drifted from one conversation to the next. The NT2 polka dot crew represented and team OBORO came out in force. “in absentia” guest authors Daniel Canty and Alexis O’Hara were present as were many other dear friends. Over all I only knew a fraction of the people there. The crowd was mixed: kids, dogs, punks, artists, friends, locals and a few friendly local mentally insane folks. I took their presence as a huge complement. If the local mentally insane know that your party is THE Saint-Jean Baptiste Day party to be at you have really made it in this town. Many people were unaware of what the party was for or about other than that it was about having a party, which was certainly one of the things this party was about. Other people were acutely aware of what the work that prompted the party was all about. Stories of evictions from Mile End abounded. Someone on the Dare-Dare selection committee told me that Dare-Dare hadn’t yet been evicted from the parc sans nom when they accepted “in absentia” but he and a number of the other Dare-Dare members had already been forced to move. One guy came up and told me he’d been at home packing when he’d heard about the project and the party on the radio and decided to come check it out. Wow.

The police came three times on account of noise complaints, which totally eclipsed the on-site porto-potties as my new career high. The bicycle cops have the shapeliest legs. The programming director of Dare-Dare gave “in absentia” postcards and I merrily introduced myself to each and every officer as “the artist” which confused the heck out of them. It’s pretty hard to argue with a Saint-Jean block party, especially considering it would be Dare-Dare’s last party every in the parc sans nom. I mean, what were the police going to do, evict us? Everybody remained peaceful, the police left us in peace and people went on dancing until 2AM.

The official cocktail of the evening was the mojito, which was also the official cocktail of my wedding. This was pure coincidence as I had so little to do with the party planning I didn’t even know there would be an official cocktail. All the bartenders were volunteers, as were all the dj’s: Julie d, Tommy T, Rustic, Backdoor, Dirty Boots, papa dans maman, catherine lovecity, alakranx, cristal 45 et FSK1138 & jason j gillingham. FSK1138 & jason j gillingham did some kind of crazy live set using sounds extracted from the blue and red values of photo data taken from images of in absentia. The sound data was extracted using ‘BeepMap‘ a flstudio image synth. A few days later FSK1138 dropped off a CD of these sounds in my mailbox. A few days later FSK1138 popped a CD of these sounds in my mailbox. Thank you guys, so much.

I’m blown away by the generosity of all these volunteers and mightily impressed by the hard work and dedication of the Dare-Dare community. All night the programming director of Dare-Dare worked crowd control with a super grounded zen like calm, negotiating with the police and the locals and the drunks and the crazies and me the artist and picking up empties and taking photos and restocking the bar with beer. At some point I said to someone, “Man, can you imagine being the guy in charge of all this?”

At some other point in the evening I was sitting with a group of friends watching the masses dancing, casting wild elongated shadows on the underside of the Van Horne Viaduct when it hit me that there were more people at this party than there had been in my entire elementary school. I tried to explain how overwhelming this was. Someone said: “What did you go to a Montessori school or something?” No, I just grew up in a place where there were that few people! When I was a kind in rural Nova Scotia most folks scoffed when I said I was going off the big city to study fine arts in university. When I started making art on the Internet most folks scoffed and said: “The Internet’s just a fad, it will never catch on.” So I found it beautiful that a web-based fiction project could bring so many real people together in a physical space.

At some very late point in the evening I was standing on the steps of the Dare-Dare trailer taking night photos each on more surreal than then next yet not quite able to capture the scene when artistic director Jean-Pierre passed by and asked me if I was enjoying my party. My party? “It’s bigger than all of us,” I said. One of the stated aims of in absentia is so “haunt” the neighbourhood with the stories of its former tenants (fictional or otherwise) who have been forced out by gentrification. If my night photos are any indication than yes, I think my plan is working.

in absentia is now online: http://luckysoap.com/inabsentia. I will continue to add new stories over the course of the summer until November 2008. It will take at least that long for all of the ramifications of this project to sink in. If you have stories of gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End feel free to add them as comments to this post or summit them via the comment box within the piece.
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in absentia – a new web project by J. R. Carpenter

in absentia is a new web-based writing project by J. R. Carpenter that addresses gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. In this work J. R. Carpenter uses HTML, javascript and the Google Maps API to create an interactive non-linear narrative of interconnected “postcard” stories written from the point of view of former tenants of Mile End forced out by gentrification. This project features new fiction by J. R. Carpenter with guest authors: Lance Blomgren, Andy Brown, Daniel Canty and Colette Tougas. New stories will continue to be be added throughout the summer and into the all of 2008. http://luckysoap.com/inabsentia

in absentia is a Latin phrase meaning “in absence.” I’m drawn to the contradiction inherent in being in absence. In recent years many long-time low-income neighbours being forced out of Mile End by economically motivated decisions made their absence. So far fiction is the best way I’ve found to give voice these disappeared neighbours, and the web is the best place I’ve found to situate their stories. Our stories. My building is for sale; my family may be next. Faced with imminent eviction I’ve begun to write about the Mile End as if I’m no longer here, and to write about a Mile End that is no longer here. By manipulating the Google Maps API, I am able to populate “real” satellite images of my neighbourhood with “fictional” characters and events. I aim to both literally and figuratively map the sudden disappearances of characters, fictional or otherwise, from the places, real or imagined, where they once lived; to document traces people leave behind when they leave a place, and the stories that spring from their absence. in absentia is a web “site” haunted by the stories of former residents of Mile End, a slightly fantastical world that is already lost but at the same time is still fully known by its inhabitants: a shared memory of the neighbourhood as it never really was but could have been.

Themes of place and displacement pervade my fiction and electronic literature, yet place long remained an abstract, elusive notion for me. Perhaps because for many years I wrote about long ago places attempting to inhabit pasts that could never be mine. Mapping the minutia of my most immediate surroundings has made my notion of place less abstract and more socially engaged. Writing about my neighbours has made me aware that I write from amongst them, thus engendering a “we” point of view. Increasingly, my work is collaborative. In in absentia (June 2008) I join a cast of writers from my neighbourhood to pen “postcards” to and from former tenants, fictional or otherwise, displaced by gentrification and it’s erasures.

in absentia also marks the end of DARE-DARE’s Dis/location: projet d’articulation urbaine in the Mile End’s parc sans nom. The mobile office will leave the vacant lot that was its home for two years and move towards Montréal’s dowtown, in Cabot Square, corner Sainte-Catherine and Atwater. http://dare-dare.org

J. R. Carpenter is a two-time winner of the CBC Quebec Short Story Competition and a Web Art Finalist in the Drunken Boat PanLiterary Awards 2006. Her novel Words the Dog Knows is forthcoming from Conundrum in the fall of 2008. Her short fiction and electronic literature have been published and exhibited internationally and can be found on http://luckysoap.com.

in absentia projet web de J.R. Carpenter inauguré le 24 juin au parc sans nom
DARE-DARE avec nouvelles oeuvres de fiction signées J. R. Carpenter, avec auteurs invités: Lance Blomgren, Andy Brown, Daniel Canty, Alexis O’Hara et Colette Tougas La réalisation du projet se poursuivra jusqu’au 30 novembre 2008. http://luckysoap.com/inabsentia

in absentia est un projet d’écriture sur le Web qui traite de la gentrification dans le quartier Mile-End de Montréal et des disparitions qu’elle entraîne. J.R. Carpenter utilise le HTML, le JavaScript et les cartes API-Google pour créer une narration interactive non linéaire constituée d’histoires « cartes postales » écrites selon le point de vue d’anciens locataires du Mile-End forcés de quitter leur logement à cause de la gentrification. Le projet débutera le 24 juin et se poursuivra au cours de l’été et de l’automne 2008.

« L’expression latine in absentia signifie “en l’absence de”. Au cours des dernières années, plusieurs de mes voisins à faible revenu qui habitaient le Mile-End depuis longtemps ont été forcés de quitter le quartier en raison de décisions d’ordre économique prises en leur absence. À ce jour, la fiction s’avère le meilleur moyen pour raconter l’histoire de mes voisins disparus et le Web, le meilleur endroit où afficher leur histoire. Notre histoire. L’immeuble que j’habite est à vendre; ma famille et moi subirons peut-être le même sort prochainement. Menacée d’expulsion, j’ai commencé à écrire sur le Mile-End comme si je n’y étais plus et à écrire sur le Mile-End qui n’est plus. En manipulant les cartes API-Google, il m’est possible de peupler de personnages fictifs les “vraies” images satellites de mon quartier et d’inventer des situations. Je cartographie – au sens propre et figuré – la disparition soudaine de personnages fictifs ou non, des endroits où ils ont habité véritablement ou dans l’imaginaire. Je documente les traces que les gens laissent derrière eux lorsqu’ils quittent un endroit ainsi que l’histoire qui émerge de leur absence. in abstentia est un “site” Web hanté par les histoires d’anciens résidants du Mile- End, un univers quasi-fantastique déjà disparu, mais pourtant bien connu de ses habitants: la mémoire commune d’un quartier tel qu’il n’a jamais vraiment été, mais qui aurait pu être. »

« Mes oeuvres de fiction et de littérature électronique baignent dans les thèmes du lieu et du déplacement et pourtant, le lieu est longtemps demeuré un concept abstrait et imprécis à mes yeux. Peut-être parce que j’ai longtemps écrit au sujet de lieux qui n’existaient plus, tentant de m’inscrire dans des passés qui ne pouvaient pas être les miens. »

« Cartographier les menus détails de mon univers immédiat a fait en sorte que je conçois la notion de lieu de façon moins abstraite et avec un plus grand engagement social. En écrivant sur mes voisins, je me suis rendu compte que je me situais parmi eux pour écrire et que, par conséquent, j’adoptais une écriture au “nous”. Je travaille de plus en plus en collaboration. Pour in absentia, je me joins à une équipe d’auteurs de mon quartier pour écrire des “cartes postales” destinées à ou provenant d’anciens locataires, qu’ils soient fictifs ou non, déplacés par la gentrification et les disparitions qu’elle entraîne. »

in absentia marque également la fin du présent volet de Dis/location: projet d’articulation urbaine – ainsi que de la présence de DARE-DARE dans le parc sans nom du Mile-End. La roulotte quittera le site inoccupé où elle était établie depuis deux ans, en route pour le square Cabot au centre-ville de Montréal, à l’angle de Ste-Catherine et Atwater. http://dare-dare.org

J. R. Carpenter est deux fois lauréate du Concours de nouvelles de CBC Quebec et finaliste au volet Web Art pour le prix Drunken Boat PanLiterary 2006. Son roman Words the Dog Knows paraîtra à l’automne 2008 aux éditions Conundrum. Ses oeuvres de fiction et de littérature électronique ont été publiées et présentées ici et à l’étranger et sont disponibles en ligne au http://luckysoap.com.
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in absentia launch party June 24th

Join us for the launch of in absentia – a new web writing project by J.R. Carpenter with guest authors: Lance Blomgren, Andy Brown, Daniel Canty and Colette Tougas. in absentia is presented by DARE-DARE Centre de diffusion dart multidisciplinaire de Montral.

DARE-DARE will host an in absentia launch party on Saint-Jean Baptiste Day, June 24th from 5 – 11PM in the parc sans nom (St. Laurent @ Van Horn). The event is free and open to everyone. There will be DJs and a cash bar and possibly a laser light show, if I have time!

The launch of in absentia marks the end of DARE-DARE’s Dis/location: projet d’articulation urbaine. On July 1st, DARE-DARE’s blue trailer will leave the vacant lot that was its home for two years and move towards Montréal’s downtown, in Cabot Square, corner Sainte-Catherine and Atwater. The launch of in absentia will be the last event held in the Mile End’s parc sans nom, so please come and make it a great one.

in absentia is a web-based writing project that addresses issues of gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. In recent years many long-time low-income neighbours being forced out of Mile End by gentrification. So far fiction is the best way I’ve found to give voice these disappeared neighbours, and the web is the best place I’ve found to situate their stories. Our stories. My building is for sale; my family may be next. Faced with imminent eviction I’ve begun to write as if I’m no longer here, about a Mile End that is no longer here. By manipulating the Google Maps API, I am able to populate “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. The project will launch in Montreal and on-line on June 24, and new stories will continue to be added until November 30, 2008.

DARE-DARE Centre de diffusion d’art multidisciplinaire de Montréal est situé dans un parc sans nom entre Saint-Laurent et Clark, entre Arcade et Rosemont/Van Horne, Montréal. For more information please visit: dare-dare.og
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The Fruit Man and Other Poems

Next month the Montreal chapbook press WithWords will publish The Fruit Man and Other Poems, by Jason Camlot, illustrated by me, J. R. Carpenter. Not only do Jason and I have the same initials (JC), as you can see, our names (Camlot and Carpenter) are quite close alphabetically. If we had gone to grade school together I would have sat behind Jason in class. If I had gone to grad school, Jason might have been one of my professors. But neither of these is the case. I’m not quite sure how we actually met, but I do know that before we ever met our poems appeared sequentially in a number of alphabetically ordered anthologies including: 100 Poets Against the War (Salt) and Future Welcome: The Moosehead Anthology X (DC Books), both edited by Todd Swift.

When Jason first asked me to consider illustrating The Fruit Man and Other Poems, I was a little worried that he might have me confused with an illustrator. My background is in Fine Arts, and I vaguely remember studying Life Drawing and Anatomy at the Art Students’ League of New York way back in the Pre-Cambrian Epoch, but I hadn’t done any drawing for a very long time. In my “mini-books” I use many small single images to punctuate the text rather than illustrate it (in so far as illustrations tend toward the emblematic, whereas my use of images tends toward the diagrammatic). But for The Fruit Man I’d have to come up with something more original. Drawing is not exactly like riding a bike. As my friend Camilo, who draws everyday, said before embarking on a round of etchings recently: I am rusty as old german submarines in the deep underwaters of the atlantic.

Another thing to consider: Jason is a Victorianist – that’s a pretty daunting era in book illustration. Think Beardsly’s Salome. Not to mention all that Art Nouveau stuff. But I agreed to illustrate The Fruit Man and Other Poems anyway, because I love the poems. Anyone who knows me will immediately know why when they read them. They are filled with small things: thimbles and pocket combs, mice and china cups. They reference big systems of thinking: the list, the collection, the cabinet of curiosities, phrenology, “the new technology in underclothes,” and Ruskin. I have a real soft spot for Ruskin. The title piece is a long poem modelled on Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” (which was illustrated by D.G. Rossetti back in the day). Here is an excerpt from “The Fruit Man” followed by my cover illustration:

When I asked the foreman if he’s seen
a fruit man selling apples, green,
like the one in my hand,
he brought me to his cabinet
of cardboard drawers
stuffed with buttons and safety pins,
butcher’s paper, razor blades,
and numberless scraps of animal skin.
In a pantry for needles,
behind a sewing machine,
the foreman kept his apples,
green, like the one in my hand,
brought weekly to him
by the same Fruit Man.

Jason Camlot, The Fruit Man

J. R. Carpenter, cover image: The Fruit Man and Other Poems, by Jason Camlot
The Fruit Man and Other Poems cover illustration by J. R. Carpenter

The Fruit Man and Other Poems will launch in March. Check back here in a week or two for dates. Or try the WithWords Press website: http://www.withwordspress.com/
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The Evolution of the Mini-Book

When I was about six I had a subscription to Owl magazine. In one issue they had a page you cut out, cut up and collated into a mini-book about birds. In 32 pint-sized panels The Owl Mini-Book of Birds introduced twenty-seven orders of birds beginning with the most primitive, flightless birds, and ending with the most advanced, perching birds. I’ve moved house at least 12 times since I was six, but somehow that wee book never got lost in the shuffle. I still have it.

When I was in high school I was painting horrible abstracts in acrylics on canvas board, writing excruciating poetry and studying classical guitar. I can sight-read music, but I’m completely tone deaf so a career in music was out. It was a toss-up between writing and visual arts until, when I was fifteen going on sixteen, I spent a summer in New York studying life drawing and anatomy at the Art Student’s League. There under the tutelage of Nicki Orbach I became simultaneously addicted to drawing and anatomical drawings and decided to apply to art school. If you’ve just Googled yourself and are reading this now Nicki Orbach, know that you changed my life.

When I was seventeen I got into Concordia Fine Arts and soon after got a job at the Concordia Fine Arts Library. There I became simultaneously addicted to the disordered stacks of the now defunct Norris Library and the Fine Arts Slide Library photocopy machine. I used the hell out of that photocopy machine. I carried obscure anatomy books out the library by the armload, photocopied all the diagrams and returned the books unread. There were complaints. I almost got fired a number of times. For more on my tawdry affair with the photocopier, read: A Little Talk About Reproduction.

This was in the early nineties, I should mention, before personal computers came along and made themselves accessible. The drawing classes at Concordia were not quite on par with those at the Art Students’ League. I took a collage class with David Moore. There were photos I didn’t want to cut up. So I photocopied them. There were books I didn’t want to cut up, with anatomical diagrams in them more beautiful than anything I could draw, and there were also diagrams for all my other favourite things: botany, embroidery, analytical geometry, you name it. So I photocopied them, called them “found drawings” and found uses for them.

The first mini-book I made as an adult bore the slightly adult title, Bound For Pleasure. It was based on a poem of the same name and was illustrated with an erratum of diagrams ranging from a garter belt to a bandaged foot. The poems got better over time. The collection of found drawings grew. In art school I made four mini-books: Bound for Pleasure, The Confrontation, The Probability of Mummification, and The Basement Family Pharmacy. They’re no longer in print. Mostly I just gave them all away.

In the fall of 1993 I discovered the Internet, got a Unix shell account and set out to learn everything there was to know about computers. By the fall of 1994 I was no longer working at the Slide Library and thus no longer had illicit access to an after-hours photocopy machine. In the fall of 1995 I did a 10-week thematic residency at the Banff Centre, which was call the Banff Centre for the Arts back then. It turns out that all the big things in life happen in the fall.

The theme of the Banff residency was: Telling Stories, Telling Tales. The first story I told them was that I was a writer, which, as far as I knew, I was not, but they let me in anyway. At Banff I attempted to make a number of mid-sized mini-books using the computer, but they never went anywhere. I made this one book based on a circular story. Because it was a book, when people got to the end they just stopped, because that’s what you’re supposed to do with a book. Then the guy in the next studio over pointed out that if I made it into a web page I could link the last page to the first page so the reader could keep going around and around. So I did. My first ever electronic literature project was designed for Netscape 1.1 and it still works: Fishes & Flying Things. The guy in the next studio over was Velcrow Ripper. If you’ve just Googled yourself and are reading this now Velcrow Ripper, know that you changed my life.

I didn’t even think about making another mini-book for years. Too busy paying off my student loan. Luckily web art led to a few marketable skills. I’ve worked in every aspect of the Internet industry, as artist, designer, programmer, teacher, consultant, and even, once, a three-year stint as the manager of a multi-national web development team. I quit that job in the fall of 2001. Yes, in the fall.

After three years in the corporate world I never wanted to look at the web again. So I began writing a novel. About eight months into that as yet unfinished project I realized how long it would take. Needing to finish something immediately in order to sustain my sanity, all of a sudden I found myself making a mini-book. Not surprisingly, that book, Down the Garden Path was all about how incredibly long it takes to “make a thing which then exists and maybe it is beautiful.”

I’m still working on the novel. And a collection of short stories. Or two. The post-corporate traumatic stress disorder has worn off and I’m back to making electronic literature again. Sometimes I do these things separately, more often all at once. Each new mini-book begins with a piece of writing, a short piece that I can’t get out of my head. Images accrue around it. Sometimes other texts attach themselves to my text and sometimes there are videos too. Three of the most recent mini-books are based on web projects: Entre Ville, The Cape, and How I Loved the Broken Things of Rome. The web is nice, but nothing beats cutting stuff up with scissors.

Look for these and other mini-books in DISTROBOTO machines around town. Or just ask me next time you see me – there are usually some in my purse.
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