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

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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Foe, Ballard’s Concrete Island, Hakluyt’s Voyages and Discoveries, and many other lesser-known sources including an out-of-date guidebook to the Scottish Isles and an amalgam of accounts of the classical and possibly fictional island of Thule.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.

. . . and by islands I mean paragraphs.

Categories:  electronic literature, exhibition, launch, Writing Coastlines
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. . . 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

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing

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A print extract and brief description of my computer-generated narrative dialogue TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] has been published in &NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing, a new anthology from &NOW Books.

&NOW AWARDS cover

The book has two front covers (though one looks more front-like than the other). It can be read from either direction. The introductions to both sides state: “There are two ‘sides’ to the book. These ‘sides’ mirror each other, except when they do not.”

The page numbers don’t quite bear this out, but somehow I suspect I have Nick Montfort to thank for my inclusion in this anthology. Roughly the other side of the book from TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is Nick’s contribution to the volume – a page each of output from the Latin and Cyrillic versions of “Letterformed Terrain,” from Concrete Perl, a set of four concrete poems realized as 32-character Perl programs. The source code of TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE] is adapted from another of Nick’s pieces, The Two, so whether intentional on the part of the editors or not, these two pieces are engaged in a conversion of sorts.

In any case, I’m delighted to see print anthologies endeavoring to represent experimental digital literature, and I’m honoured to be included in this book, in such great company.

Here’s what the publishers have to say:

This second volume of The &Now Awards recognizes the most provocative, hardest-hitting, deadly serious, patently absurd, cutting-edge, avant-everything-and-nothing work from the years 2009–11. The &NOW Awards features writing as a contemporary art form: writing as it is practiced today by authors who consciously treat their work as an art, and as a practice explicitly aware of its own literary and extra-literary history— as much about its form and materials, language, as it about its subject matter. The &NOW conference, moving from the University of Notre Dame (2004), Lake Forest College (2006), Chapman University (2008), the University at Buffalo (2009), the University of California, San Diego (2011), and Paris (Sorbonne and Diderot, 2012)—sets the stage for this aesthetic, while The &Now Awards features work from the wider world of innovative publishing and serves as an ideal survey of the contemporary scene.

&NOW AWARDS 2: The Best Innovative Writing is edited by Davis Schneiderman. It will be available for purchase from Northwestern University Press and from Amazon as of 25 May 2013.

More information about TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

Notes on the Voyage of Owl and Girl

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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.

TRANS.MISSION [A.DIALOGUE]

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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]

800 characters on Monfort & Strickland’s The Sea and Spar Between

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MCD #66 This beautiful bilingual issue #66 of the French Magazine MCD (musiques & cultures digitales) is dedicated to Writing Machines: literature, performance and media in the digital age. It was edited by Emmanuel Guez and contains articles by and/or about Annie Abrahams, Serge Bouchardon, Philippe Bootz, Laura Borràs, Peter Ciccariello, Katherine Hayles, Jorg Piringer, Alexandra Saemmer, Brian Stefans, and many many more.

Somewhere in there is a teeny tiny text I wrote about The Sea and Spar Between by Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland. Adhering to Guez’s strict stipulation that the text be no longer that 800 characters – including spaces – was quite a challenge. The Sea and Spar Between is a poetry generator which defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. That in the world there now exists a French translation of an 800 character text that I wrote about a generator Montfort and Strickland made using words from Emily Dickinson’s poems and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick confounds and delight’s me.

“en avant! / car la mer est sans repos”
“dash on / for pauseless is the sea”

It is possible to buy a PDF copy of MCD #66 Machines d’écriture / Writing machines online, but buy the paper copy. It’s is really very nice.

Along the Briny Beach

Categories:  electronic literature, festival, Generation(s), performance, poetry, publication
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My most recent piece of digital poetry, Along the Briny Beach, generates a coastline. The source code loads the following variables: Land Sea Write Erase Walk Liminal Space. The variable _Read_ is assumed to be client-side. The function _Writing and Erasing_ returns: Edges Ledges and Legible Lines caught in the Double-Bind of Writing and Erasing. Onload: Write Coast.

Along the Briny Beach appears in the new garden-theme issue of Boulder Pavement, an elegant multi-media journal published by The Banff Centre Press three times a year.

Along the briny beach a garden grows. With silver bells and cockleshells, cockles and mussels, alive, alive oh. A coral orchard puts forth raucous pink blossoms. A bouquet of sea anemones tosses in the shallows. A crop of cliffs hedges a sand-sown lawn mown twice daily by long green-thumbed waves rowing in rolling rows. The shifting terrain where land and water meet is always neither land nor water and is always both. The sea garden’s paths are fraught with comings and goings. Sea birds in ones and twos. Scissor-beak, Kingfisher, Parrot, and Scissor-tail. Changes in the Zoology. Causes of Extinction. From the ship the sea garden seems to glisten and drip with steam. Along a blue sea whose glitter is blurred by a creeping mist, the Walrus and the Carpenter are walking close at hand. A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk along the briny storied waiting in-between space. Wind blooms in the marram dunes. The tide far out, the ocean shrunken. On the bluff a shingled beach house sprouts, the colour of artichoke. On the horizon lines of tankers hang, like Chinese lanterns. Ocean currents collect crazy lawn ornaments. Shoes and shipwrecks, cabbages and kings. Water bottle caps and thick white snarls of string. At dawn an ancient tractor crawls along the briny beach, harvesting the tide’s leaves. The world’s plastic, the sea’s weeds.

Along the Briny Beach was performed in collaboration with Jerome Fletcher at E-Poetry [ 2011 ] : International Digital Language | Media | Arts Festival at SUNY Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, May 19, 2011.

The source code for the poetry generating component of Along the Briny Beach is based on Taroko Gorge, by Nick Montfort, other remixes of which appear in my recent book GENERATION[S].

Along the Briny Beach || Boulder Pavement 4

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR – a sort of short story – in the Wild issue of Branch Magazine

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Pookie strikes again. A sort-of short-story-like prose-esque version of Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR appears in Branch Magazine’s Wild issue, guest-edited by Alison Strumberger, launched 1 April 2011 (no joke).

Branch Magazine - Wild

Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie & JR is a narrative documentation of the adventures Ingrid Bachmann’s hermit crab Pookie and I had during June of 2009. Pookie is not the wildest of animals, but he is pretty social, for a hermit crab. Pookie’s full name is Pookie 14. Pookie is the star of a Python story generator, and my latest book, GENERATION[S]. For backstory on this story on this story, visit: http://luckysoap.com/statements/storygenerations.html

Branch Magazine is a national quarterly online magazine devoted to exploring the rifts and overlaps of visual and literary arts while showcasing emerging and professional Canadian artists and creators. Branch features contemporary literature, art and design and aims to produce a compelling panoply of art in different media. Each issue is prompted by a particular theme and, depending on how artists interpret the subject, Branch strives to present how artistic minds may bring together a magpie’s nest arranged by its clash and compatibility

GENERATION[S] Book Launch and Performance Event at Cabaret Fledermaus, Vienna, December 14, 2010

Categories:  Generation(s), launch, performance
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My new code narrative book, GENERATION[S], and all the other awesome books in TRAUMAWIEN Edition Schema 2, will launch at Cabaret Fledermaus in Vienna, Tuesday the 14th of December. Or, Dezember, as they spell December in Vienna. Or, Vien, as they spell Vienna in Vienna. I love being part of a production I can’t even read the PR for! I can’t wait to return to Vienna, where all the buildings look like cakes. And I really can’t wait to see the Cabaret Feldermaus. The original was opened in 1907. The interior was designed by Josef Hoffmann. Several other well-known artists of the Viennese Art Nouveau, including Gustav Klimt, contributed to the design of the stage and furniture, as well as posters, postcards, pins and cutlery. Those days are over, alas. The TRAUMAWIEN launch event will be held in the new Cabaret Feldermaus, founded in 1967, and basically unchanged since, despite it’s recent transformation into a disco club. In different places in Europe “disco” means different things. In this case, I sincerely hope there’s a disco ball, to mirror the glittering mosaics of the Feldermaus of old.

In any case, it seems fitting that GENERATION[S] will launch in a venue that has seen many generations come and go. The paradoxes of this setting also seem to be in keeping with those embraced by GENERATION[S] Vienna-based publisher TRAUMAWIEN. As TRAUMAWIEN editor Luc Gross writes, “TRAUMAWIEN considers the paradox of transferring late-breaking digital aesthetics into book form, as new media narrative snapshots of literary genres otherwise quickly lost in the immense output produced by web every second.”

GENERATION[S] is one such snapshot: a book collecting sentences written in Twitter, pulled into Facebook, commented upon, rewritten, retweeted, recommented, rewritten, collated into arrays, parsed by Python scripts, output as short stories in terminal windows, copied and pasted into a Word doc, spaced, placed and paginated, transformed into a book by TRAUMAWIEN’s brilliant designer Julian Palacz. In the book, the digital process are reordered. The output stories come first. They are interspersed with Facebook screenshots showing the first instances of certain of the sentences they contain. The source code follows the stories it generates. Download instructions are offered. One sentence at a time. Wash, rinse, repeat.

For more info on GENERATION[S], TRAUMAWIEN and all the other awesome books launching in Edition Schema 2 visit: http://www.traumawien.at/preview/

Purchase GENERATION[S] online: http://www.amazon.com/Generation-s-J-R-Carpenter/dp/3950291032/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

TRAUMAWIEN Schema 2 Launch Poster

Präsentation der Edition Schema 2
J. R. Carpenter, Montreal
Ivan Monroy Lopez, Mexico City
Audun Mortensen, Oslo

Präsentation der Edition Hybrid 1
Philip Hautmann, Wien

Coups
Barbara Anna Husar, Wien
Olivia Kaiser, Wien
Brian Larosche, Oslo

Tanzmusik
Schellackplatten – Otto Jekel
othon.jekel.at

Dienstag, 14. Dezember 2010, 19 Uhr OPEN END!
Cabaret Fledermaus
Spiegelgasse 2, 1010 Wien

http://traumawien.at/

Whisper Wire: A Poetry Generator Transmitting and Receiving Electronic Voice Phenomena Through Haunted Media

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Whisper Wire is a new poetry generator by J.R. Carpenter, a text transmitter, a code medium sending and receiving a steady stream of strange sounds, disembodied voices, ghost whispers, distant wails and other intercepted attempts to communicate over vast distances through copper wires, telegraph cables, transistor radios and other haunted media.

From the outset, telegraphy has been associated with otherworldly presences. If intelligence and consciousness could be transmitted independent of the body, surely the dead could speak to the living though electromagnetic means. This perception persisted nearly a century, even as telegraph and telephone networks girdled the globe with cables, signals, switches and stations.

null

December 14, 1901, three short sharp clicks skipped this grid. The Morse letter S travelled from Poldu, Cornwall — not troubled at at by the curvature of the Earth or the salt wet and wind of the Atlantic — to Saint-John’s, Newfoundland, where it was received by a telephonic headset held to the highly sensitive receiver of Guglielmo Marconi’s waiting ear.

Was the Morse letter S appended to Saint-John’s that day? Hoax rumours abound. Some suggest that what Marconi heard was actually a harmonic — a connection, yes, but not a transmission. Distance distorts. Distance distends. We hear what we need to. Wireless technology revealed a vast, unfathomable ocean of silence and static. Deep listening into that void can return uncanny results. Whisper Wire generates an unheimlich poem of un-homed messages, a spectrum of strange and unexplainable sounds, hunting the either for a listener, a receiver, a media to haunt.

The source code of Whisper Wire is itself possessed. Whisper Wire is a remix of Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge. Excerpts and source code of another of J.R. Carpenter’s remixes of Taroko Gorge, titled simply GORGE, appear in her new hybrid code narrative book GENERATION[S], published by TRAUMAWIEN.

Whisper Wire will be performed in Edinburgh on Halloween night at Inspace… no one can hear you scream, an evening of language in digital performance presented by the third International Conference on Interactive Digital Storytelling and New Media Scotland.

Whisper Wire will become a live wire during this 20 minute hybrid performance. Performance writers J.R. Carpenter and Jerome Fletcher will mix generated text, javascript, found sounds and live readings from the works of decadent authors, Medlar Lucan & Durian Gray and others.

“As we stand on the clifftop at Poldhu, watching the wind which roars in off the Atlantic whipping spindrift off the tops of the waves, we are filled with an overwhelming sense of horror. Between here and New York nothing but grotesque tonnages of uncooked haddock swim. Nowhere is Nature present in such profusion, and we have chosen to expose ourselves to it for the next three days!

At this spot a century ago, Guglielmo Marconi set up a circle of masts by which he would transmit the first radio signals beyond the curve of the earth. We too are here to communicate. Not with the Living, however, but with the Dead.”

Medlar Lucan & Durian Gray with Paul Renner, The Hell Fire Touring Club, Oxford: Pharsalia, 2004, page 21.

48 hours | Inspace… no one can hear you scream.
Sunday 31st October 2010, 7.30 for 8pm.
Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

Inspace