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.

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

A retrospective: A perspective: Going on 20 years online

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)

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.

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

LEA New Media Exhibition: Re-Drawing Boundaries

Three of my web-based works are included in Re-Drawing Boundaries, a new online New Media Exhibition launched in April 2011 by Leonardo Electronic Almanac (LEA), the electronic arm of the pioneer art journal, Leonardo – Journal of Art, Science & Technology, published by MIT Press.

Re-Drawing Boundaries

Over a fifteen-week period Re-Drawing Boundaries will present a spectrum of recent and older works by an international selection of artists working in the emerging and often overlapping fields of Locative Media, New Media and Mapping. The exhibition aims to represent cross-pollination and progression between these works, artists and artistic territories.

In each of the three web-based narrative map works of mine to be featured in week ten of Re-Drawing Boundaries, maps operate – often simultaneously – as images, interfaces, and stand-ins for far-away places and pasts that could never be mine. My early adoption of the web as a narrative medium was due in part to my attraction to the internet as a place-less place. These web “sites” may be read as repositories for longings for belonging, for home.

Mythologies of Landforms and Little Girls [1996]

The Cape [2005]

CityFish [2010]

Re-Drawing Boundaries is curated by Jeremy Hight, with senior curators Lanfranco Aceti and Christiane Paul. The selected artists are:

Kate Armstrong, Alan Bigelow, Louisa Bufardeci, Laura Beloff, J.R Carpenter, Jonah Brucker Cohen, Vuk Cosic, Fallen Fruit, Luka Frelih, Buckminster Fuller, Rolf Van Gelder, Natalie Jeremijenko, Carmin Kurasic, Paula Levine, Mez, Lize Mogel, Jason Nelson, Christian Nold, Esther Polak, Proboscis, Kate Pullinger, Carlo Ratti, Douglas Repetto, Teri Rueb, Stanza, Jen Southern, Kai Syng Tan, Jeffrey Valance, Sarah Willams, Jeremy Wood, Tim Wright.

I’m thrilled to be in such great company.

For more information on this exhibition, visit:

Download: LEA New Media Exhibition: Re-Drawing Boundaries Press Release (PDF)

Follow LEA on: Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo.

CityFish to be presented at OLE Officinia di Letteratura Electtronica, exhibited at PAN Palazzo Arti Napoli

I am gearing up to present a paper on my most recent work of electronic literature – CityFish – at the OLE Officinia di Letteratura Electtronica Festival / Conference taking place in Naples 20-21 January 2011. The very full program boasts an impressive roster of speakers. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and new work. I especially love how, in a sea of big names and long conference paper titles written in Italian, Spanish, French and English, shot through with colons, semi-colons, dashes and all manner of accentuation, my title is written just like this – “CityFish” – one word, written in its own made-up language, buoyed by quotation marks, impossible to translate, and anyway, there is no reason to. The rest of the paper will be translated, however. All of the papers presented at OLE Officinia di Letteratura Electtronica will appear in Italian translation in a book published by Feltrinelli in Italy. I have the greatest of sympathy for the translators of this odd-ball essay about this quirky work about this talking dead fish.

CityFish is a hybrid word, title of a hybrid work, tale of a hybrid creature. A big fish story swallowing a small tale’s tail. A rhizome, a fable, an urban legend. Like an old wives’ tale, it’s long been told but is never quite finished. In its latest incarnation, CityFish is a web-based hypermedia panoramic narrative. Completed in November 2010, with the support of a new media creation grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, CityFish was presented in Beta at Archive & Innovate, The 4th International Conference & Festival of the Electronic Literature Organization, at Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, USA, June 3-6, 2010. CityFish was also presented as a work-in-progress at Interventions: Literary Practice at the Edge: A Gathering, at The Banff Centre, in Banff, Alberta, Canada, February 18, 2010. The Coney Island videos were shot on location in 2005 and edited during the Babel Babble Rabble: On Language and Art thematic residency at The Banff Centre in 2006. A very, very, very early web-based iteration of CityFish was presented in an exhibition called IßWAS, at the Bavarian American Hotel in Nuremberg, Germany, July 1998. That iteration incorporated a series of photographs shot on 35mm film in Chinatown, Toronto, circa 1996; a line drawing of a fish with a tall building for a tail, drawn at around the same time; and a very short story of the same name written in 1995 from the first-person point of view of a fish.

CityFish is a simple story told by a simple fish, most unhappy about being caught, killed and offered up for sale, piled unceremoniously in a heap on a sidewalk fishmonger’s stall on a hot summer day, on a narrow, crowded street in Chinatown, New York City. “What a fish, once was I,” the fish reminisces. “A fish’s fish, with fish’s thoughts inside my head.” Fish are far from us. Their stories breathe with gills, swim in deep cold water and are never still. They cannot help but seem strange to us. As Henry David Thoreau noted in Cape Cod, a book named after a piece of land named after a fish:

All that is told of the sea has a fabulous sound to an inhabitant of the land, and all its products have a certain fabulous quality, as if they belonged to another planet, from sea-weed to a sailor’s yarn, or a fish-story. In this element the animal and vegetable kingdoms meet and are strangely mingled.

CityFish will be exhibited at PAN Palazzo Arti Napoli for a month after OLE Officinia di Letteratura Electtronica, and may be viewed anytime from anywhere online here:

PAN Palazzo Arti Napoli
via dei mille 60, napoli
tel. +39.081.7958604-05
fax. +39.081.7958660

An article about OLE Officinia di Letteratura Electtronica appeared in the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera 8 January 2011: Arriva la letteratura elettronica

Electronic Literature at PW10

I am thrilled to be involved with curating an exhibition of digital textwork/e-literature to be shown in the Arnolfini Reading Room during PW10 Performance Writing Weekend at Arnolfini, Bristol, May 8-9, 2010. This exhibition includes some of my own work as well as fantastic contributions by John Cayley, Daniel Howe, Christine Wilks, Jason Nelson and Jerome Fletcher. We are also pleased to feature the launch of _feralC_ a new web work by MEZ commissioned by Arnolfini curated by Geoff Cox.

John Cayley and Daniel Howe
Misspelt Landings

Misspelt Landings is a preliminary work from The Readers Project. It is presented here as a Java Applet, written and generated using Processing and RiTa, the extensive natural language processing and text handling libraries for Processing by Daniel Howe.
John Cayley and Daniel Howe - Misspelt Landings

J. R. Carpenter
Entre Ville

Entre Ville is a web-based hypermedia heat-wave poem commissioned by OBORO, an artist-run centre in Montréal, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Conseil des Arts de Montréal.
J. R. Carpenter - Entre Ville

J. R. Carpenter
Story Generation(s): Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR, I’ve Died and Gone to Devon, and Auto-Autobiography

Story Generations(s) are a series of short fictions generated from Python scripts.
Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR

Jerome Fletcher

…Reusement is an interactive piece that examines the idea of an archaeology of reading. The user uncovers layers of text through a process of ‘erasure’, simultaneously amassing details of an uncertain narrative.
Jerome Fletcher - Reusement

Commissioned by Arnolfini, curated by Geoff Cox.

_feralC_ will launch on the Saturday the 8th May at 3pm East-Coast Australian time.
_feralC_ is a “socumentary” [mix of social_networking mockumentary & Alternate Reality Sequencing] that will trace the Twitter output of special networked characters. Stay tuned + remember: follow the synthetic brick road….
MEZ - </p></blockquote> <p>_feralC_

Jason Nelson

WithinSpace is a textwork written in Flash which challenges the flatness of the terminal screen and encourages layered contextual readings.

Christine Wilks

Underbelly is a playable media fiction, created in Flash, about a woman sculptor, carving on the site of a former colliery in the north of England. As she carves, she is disturbed by a medley of voices, some from the site’s dark industrial past, and the player/reader is plunged into an underworld of repressed fears and desires.
Christine Wilks - Underbelly

Also on display: Electronic Literature Collection Volume One
Editors: N. Katherine Hayles, Nick Montfort, Scott Rettberg, Stephanie Strickland

The Electronic Literature Collection is a periodical publication of current and older electronic literature in a form suitable for individual, public library, and classroom use.

PW10 runs Sat 8 May 11.00am – 9.00pm & Sun 9 May 11.00am – 6pm

For more information on PW10 and a full event schedule, visit Arnolfini:

For more information on Performance Writing, visit the Facebook page:

Reading Rebooted: Glimpsing the Future of Literature in the Digital Age

Earlier this month, in absentia was included in an exhibition called Reading Rebooted: Glimpsing the Future of Literature in the Digital Age. Reading Rebooted opened its doors on Nov 30, 2009 at 5pm, at the Kipp Gallery, on the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. A project of the Kipp Gallery, IUP Center for Digital Humanities and Culture, and students from the Graduate Program in Literature and Criticism, the exhibit aims to “explore the imaginative engagement of poets and fiction writers with the tools of new media. . . inventing a post-Gutenberg space for literature.”

We are interested in thinking about how digital writers engage with the possibilites of public and private, social and individual in their work. And while all of the pieces selected are available on the web (unlike some digital works designed for site-specific installations) and so can be “read” by an individual user on his or her private laptop, in the security of the home, we are placing them in the social space of the gallery.

We wanted to show them in the gallery because we are interested in how visitors to the site will choose to interact with these works. The spatial configuration of the gallery itself is envisioned as offering the visitor significant choices about how to take in these works … to read, use, play, operate, and spectate…

Fourteen works from twelve digital writers were selected for this exhibition: Chris Ault, Alan Bigelow, Serge Bourchardon, J. R. Carpenter, Roderick Coover, Peter Cho, Andrei Gheorghe, David Jhave Johnson, Maria Mencia, Jason Nelson, Jody Zellen and Brian Kim Stefans.
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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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A Slow Reveal… at The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland

Two of my recent web-based works – Entre Ville and in absentia – have been included in a new exhibition at The Art Gallery at the University of Maryland at College Park. A Slow Reveal… launched on March 25, 2009. Over the course of several weeks, the site will reveal projects developed for the internet that employ a variety of forms: from digital narratives, online gaming, open source programming, and database art, to traditional methods of documentary filmmaking in virtual environments.

The first section in A Slow Reveal… explores how the Internet is transforming narratives, through electronic literature, gaming, mash ups, blogging, and transmedia fiction. In these works, the narrative unfolds in RSS syndication through text, still images, video, animation, and sound. The Internet provides individuals and collaborators opportunities to publish innovative re-imaginings of text and image to a potentially large audience, while reaching the smaller niche audiences some works might attract and never reach through traditional print or video distribution. The internet allows for new level of interactivity, from simple navigation and shaping of text to participating as reader/writer/composer/actor. Through mouse clicks and arrow keys, the experience is more like a performance than viewing a static material object.
– Jennie Fleming, The Art Gallery, Associate Director

So far, A Slow Reveal… has revealed works by Kate Pullinger, Chris Joseph, J. R. Carpenter, Andy Campbell, Judi Alston, Annette Weintraub, Roderick Coover, David Clark, Mark Amerika and Jody Zellen.

View A Slow Reveal…
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In Search of A New(er) Digital Literature

Entre Ville is in an new exhibition called In Search of A New(er) Digital Literature curated by Alan Bigelow, which opened in Gallery 108 at Austin Peay State University, Tennessee, USA, January 15, 2009. The exhibition is also online on < terminal > a space sponsored by the department of art and the center for the creative arts at Austin Peay to showcase and examine internet and new media art. As Bigelow writes in his curatorial statement:

the works in this exhibition, and many like them, find their life, and major readership, on the web. The web is not just a quick and expedient way to find an audience for digital literature, a way to self-publish at minimal cost, and a path to self-promotion; it also offers worldwide access to a multimedia platform for which these works can be created, and provides a place for them to thrive.
[read more]

View In Search of A New(er) Digital Literature online.
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