Notes on the Voyage: From Mainframe Experimentalism to Electronic Literature

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I’m giving a talk at the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) on Thursday, 7 February. The title on the poster is: Notes on the Voyage: From Mainframe Experimentalism to Electronic Literature. But somehow or other, my first slide is of the via Appia antica. Roman roads are among the best examples we have of classical networks, after all. Don’t worry. It only takes 14 slides to arrive at an image of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper working with the UNIVAC computer, which she helped develop. The first UNIVAC shipped on March 31, 1951. The first experiment with digital literature and digital art of any kind was carried out one year later by Christopher Strachey, working on the Manchester University Computer, for which, Alan Turing wrote the manual. And so on. Come by if you can.

Thursday February 7, 2013 | Room 595 | 12:30–1:30 PM

ALBERTA COLLEGE OF ART + DESIGN 1407 14TH AVENUE N.W. CALGARY WWW.ACAD.CA

J. R. Carpenter || Visiting Artists Talk || ACAD || February 2013

Here’s what it says in the text on the poster that is probably too small to read:

JR Carpenter has been using the internet as a medium for the creation and dissemination of experimental texts since 1993. In this lecture she will explore much earlier works of Electronic Literature dating back to the 1950s, setting a critical and historical context for the vibrant and experimental field that we find today. She skilfully excavates layers of computer/ communication/network history to oer insight into contemporary practices. Through commentary, analysis, historical images, and examples new and old of computer-generated texts and other non-traditional forms of writing, speaking, and interacting, this talk takes a practice-led approach to navigating the ever shifting creative, critical, and political terrain of this fast-growing form of digital-expression.

Guest Lecturer at de Montfort University, Leicester, UK

Categories:  electronic literature, lecture, The Cape, writing
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The week of January 25, 2010, I’ll be a Guest Lecturer in Kate Pullinger’s Fiction Module in the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media at de Montfort University, in Leicester, England. I’ll deliver the lecture from South Devon, England. Students will tune in from Oman, Vienna, Oxfordshire, Lublijana and the USA. I mention these diverse locations because they fit in so nicely with the theme of the lecture, which is: the conjoined notions of memory and place in The Cape. Not Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. That’s a real place. The events and characters in The Cape are fictional. I built the web iteration of The Cape over the course of 10 days in August 2005, but some of the sentences in The Cape have been kicking around in my brain since the early 1990s. The Cape: The Backstory charts their migration through visual art, installation, theory, print, digital and zine forms.


[print-out used to create the web iteration of The Cape]

In November, 2008, I delivered a guest lecture to the online MA Creative Writing and New Media at de Montfort on Mapping Web Words. That and many other online lectures delivered as part of the MA from 2006-2010 are now online in The Creative Writing and New Media Archive. In these lectures, delivered online by leading practitioners across the world, via video, Skype, chatrooms, slideshows, websites and plain old-fashioned discussion boards, the speakers outline the realities of working in new media; detail the rigorous creative and theoretical challenges, and celebrate the sheer pleasure of breaking new artistic ground in this dynamic medium. Their legacy and influence still continues in the work of CWNM students as they graduate and begin their careers.

The Archive represents an important snapshot in the history of new media writing and will be of use to researchers, teachers, writers and readers. For more information, please visit: http://www.transliteracy.com
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I’m in Karlsokrona, Sweden.

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It’s dark at the moment, and very far from Montreal. It took one taxi, two planes, two passport controls, two trains, eighteen hours and six time zones to get here. The taxi took the best route to the airport. The first plane was empty. It took me to Washington DC. The second plane was full. It took me to Copenhagen. It took eight hours. A long-haul red-eye spent in seat 46B – on the isle in the last row. Right next to the toilet. Which is right next to where the food comes out. I was enraged about this arrangement until I met my seatmate. 46A happened to be a Norwegian novelist named Astrid, a woman around my age who was on her way back from Mexico City. We instantly became Team Last Row and determined to make the best of it. We talked for hours about books and writing, socialism and publishing, travel and translation. I got the low down on the lay of the Scandinavian literary landscape. And an invitation to write an article for a Norwegian authors’ website that Astrid edits. Astrid got a copy of my novel. She is going to be the first person in Norway to read Words the Dog Knows. Sadly, none of her three novels have been translated into English yet. We wrote reading recommendations for each other in our matching black notebooks and got extra free wine because we were in such good spirits despite how hard our seats sucked. The flight crew knew enough to be grateful for our good humour.

We parted ways in Copenhagen. I followed my Swedish host Talan’s Map and How to Catch a Train instructions to the letter. They were excellent instructions, which included such all important details as which ticket booth will take Canadian cash and the amazing (to someone from Quebec) fact that the conductors on Swedish trains are required by law to speak English. The instructions sort of fell apart when none of the automated ticket machines were working and long lines formed at the ticket booths. I eventually managed to procure a ticket to Karlskrona and soon I was on a train speeding through the Swedish countryside. Technically the train was going to Karlskrona, but not all the way. I wound up waiting for an hour in a freezing cold station somewhere half way between Copenhagen and Karlskrona for another train to take me the rest of the way. Once I figured out where the one hot water heater was hiding in the cavernous cold, and huddled up to it, I was free to be amused by the waiting room cast of small town characters culled from the casts of My Life as a Dog and Mon Uncle. An old man spent the entire hour meticulously washing the flagstone floor by pushing a rag mop along with his boot, for example.

On the second train, a man came by interviewing passengers about their use of the train system. The whole car listened with attention as the questions were translated into English for me. I’m sure I skewed the survey’s demographic considerably. Where did you board the train? Copenhagen. What was your point of origin? Montreal. What is your final destination? Karlskrona. What is the purpose of your travel to Karlskrona? To give a lecture. And how often do you use this train service? This is my first time. By this time the whole train car was listening. Soon a second interview ensued, this one from my Swedish seatmate, a gap-toothed affable chap, who found it incredible that I would travel all this way to give one lecture and then go home. Well, I’m giving a workshop too, I explained. He apologized for the cold, lifted my suitcase into the overhead rack for me, lowered the blind so the sun wouldn’t blind me, let me sleep for a while, then tapped my knee to say good bye when he got up to leave. Because we were old friends by then I guess.

Speaking of friends, my friend Talan met me at the Karlskrona train station and walked me too my hotel. I have Talan to thank for being here. When he first invited me, over a single malt scotch in a hotel bar in the small town of Vancouver, Washington, I never thought it would actually happen. And then there we were walking through the streets of cold Karlskrona. Once I was checked into my hotel, Talan left me alone to recuperate from my travels. He ran off to a meeting and then home to prepare a welcoming reception for me set to take place at his place later this evening. Which is almost now.

Now I’ve had a nap and my brain is clearer, though body has no idea what time it is. I’m starving. I’m sucking on a cough drop trying to stay alive the next 50 minutes until Lissa comes to pick me up to take me to the reception at Talan’s, being thrown in honour of my having come all this way. Rumor has it there will be smoked baltic salmon and caviar and cheese and crackers and single malt scotch! Come on cough drop, keep me in this thing!
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Guest Lecturer at de Montfort University, Leicester, UK

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The week of November 3rd, 2008, I’ll be a Guest Lecturer at de Montfort University. De Montfort is in Leicester, UK. But I’ll be in my office in Montreal. And the students will be tuning in from the UK, Gambia, and Canada. How is this possible? De Montfort offers an online MA in Creative Writing and New Media.

The Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media is designed for writers interested in experimenting with new formats and exploring the potential of new technologies in their writing. This 95% distance learning course has a unique commitment to the connections between writing and new media and offers an excellent online experience combined with one week’s intensive study at the De Montfort campus. The course is designed by Professor Sue Thomas, writer and former Artistic Director of the trAce Online Writing Centre, and Kate Pullinger, acclaimed novelist and new media writer. It has extensive links with important initiatives including DMU’s Institute of Creative Technologies, research into digital narratives and new media writing, and the creative, digital and publishing industries.

This degree is informed by contemporary thinking on transliteracy, meaning the ability to read, write and interpret across a range of media from orality through print and film to networked environments. Creative Writing, indeed the very nature of text itself, is changing. No longer bound by print, there are many opportunities for writers to experiment with new kinds of media, different voices and experimental platforms, both independently and in collaboration with other writers or other fields and disciplines. Not only is writing evolving, but writers themselves are developing broader expectations and aspirations. Novelists are learning about the potential of hypertext and multimedia to change the ways in which a story can be told. Journalists are finding that blogs and wikis are radically affecting their relationships with their readers. Community artists are discovering powerful collaborative narratives. And the commercial world is finding new and creative ways to interact with its employees and customers in the fast-growing attention economy of the internet. While digital media have altered the way we disseminate and gather information, readers – both online and offline – still hunger for compelling narratives. As readers, we want to be told stories; we want complex and interesting ideas and characters; we want vivid pictures in our heads. As writers we want to communicate. We need good stories well-told, whatever our choice of delivery platform. The MA in Creative Writing and New Media provides an opportunity to focus on developing work at the cutting edge of the new technologies and enables new ways of thinking about narrative.

To visit the current students’ course website and to see examples of the guest lecturers on the programme and successful applicant profiles visit: http://www.creativewritingandnewmedia.com

To read the lecture I’ve prepared for the MA in Creative Writing and New Media visit: Mapping a Web of Words.


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Response to English 214′s Questions on The Cape

Categories:  electronic literature, lecture, The Cape
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Here are my responses to the questions posed by the English 214 Question Collective after their class discussion of my guest blogger post, THE CAPE: THE BACK STORY, on CultureNet @ CapilanoU on Friday, October 10, 2008:

English 214 Question Collective: As you stated in your “Back Story” guest blog, physical photographs possess a certain authority. As the transformative process of selecting a medium for publication moves “The Cape” from print-text to hypertext, does the message/meaning of your story change?

J.R. Carpenter: Yes. In every retelling, every story changes slightly. In oral story telling, it is the storyteller who wilfully alters and hones her details and delivery based on the immediacy of audience response. I came to writing through spoken word and performance. I still struggle with the finality of print publication. Once something is published in print it is fixed in time, and, like a physical photograph, cannot easily be altered. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I’m saying I struggle with it. The web is infinitely more fluid, flexible, updateable, and alterable. I’m not saying that’s a good thing – I’m saying that I’m more comfortable with publishing when I know I have the possibility of adjusting any part of the text, images or code in response to audience reaction. These slight editorial changes do not always change the message or meaning of they story, but they can influence the reader response in subtle ways.

The real question is: Is the print iteration of “The Cape” different from the hypertext iteration, and how? As I wrote in “The Cape: The Back-Story,” I spent a long time trying to expand “The Cape” into a “real” short story. It was hard for me to believe that a story could be so short. In print, the story passes by very quickly. An attentive reader will realize this, slow down, and take the time to fill in the blanks.

In the web iteration of “The Cape” there are only ever one, two, or three sentences on a page. The white space around the sentences, the entrespace created between the text and the images, the meta information to be read in the images (including additional text, in some of the diagrammatic images), the pause created by duration of the moving images, and the time lapse between clicking from one page to the next – all these hypertext elements serve to expand the terrain of story. On the other hand, given the visual-centric tendencies of the general web-viewing audience, the visual elements could potentially overshadow the text. Some may read the sentences as merely captions.

My favourite iteration of the “The Cape” is the mini-book version. In this small (approx 2 x 2.75inches), inexpensively reproduced, intimate format, the images and the text carry equal weight, being so close in size. The act of turning the page after every sentence adds time and reflective space to the story. And the miniature scale of the book refers subtly to childhood and the children’s book. It is my dream to publish a children’s book iteration of “The Cape” one day.

English 214 Question Collective: You mentioned that the Geological Guide photographs interest you more than your own family history. Do you find using fact with fiction allowed you to create a more authentic story?

J.R. Carpenter: Yes. True and false are binaries, opposites. Fiction both contains and confounds the either/or of truth and falsehood. This, to me, is more representational of real life than any idealized notion of either historical accuracy or pure fantasy. “The Cape” addresses certain presuppositions – that we all have fond childhood memories of our grandmothers, that little girls want certain things and behave in certain ways, and that Cape Cod is a lovely place to visit – by conflating observations to the contrary of those statements with other irrefutable facts: I never learned to Whistle. I wish I’d asked my uncle to teach me how to spit instead. The Cape, as Cape Cod is often called, is, as you may know, a narrow spit of land.

Writing a first-person child narrator is always tricky. No one takes a serious kid seriously. Arming the child narrator of “The Cape” with facts and charts and maps was the least I could do for her. Not that it does her much good. That no one is listening to her is what makes it an authentic story. The older we get, the more we convince ourselves that our memories are true. Why do we trust our own memories of childhood, yet doubt the perceptions of children? These are questions best left to fiction.

“Life as described in fiction … is never just life as it was lived by those who imagined, wrote, read, or experienced it but rather the fictional equivalent, what they were obliged to fabricate because they weren’t able to live it in reality and, as a result, resigned themselves to live only in the indirect and subjective way it could be lived: in dreams and in fiction. Fiction is a lie covering up a deep truth: it is life as it wasn’t, life as the men and women of a certain age wanted to live it and didn’t and thus had to invent.”

Mario Vargas Llosa, Letters to a Young Novelist, trans. Natasha Wimmer, NY: Picador, 2002, page 8.

English 214 Question Collective: As the work is entitled “The Cape”, the importance of place and memory – as you imply – are highlighted by the imagery in the erosion of the Maritime shorelines and how memories dissipate. This seems to create a strong sense of sublimity within your work. Is this something you have reflected on?

J.R. Carpenter: Yes. Notions of place have long pervaded my fiction writing and electronic literature works. In my web-based work the images of place are literally images. Maps figure prominently – operating, often simultaneously as images, interface, metaphors for place, and stand-ins for non-existent family photographs. My parents were immigrants. I grew up in a different country than everyone I was related to. We moved around a lot when I was a kid. I think my early adoption of the internet was due in part to my attraction to it as a placeless place. Many of my works may be read as web “sites” of longing for belonging, for home.

The sense of sublimity you mention emerges most strongly when I am writing about long-ago places, and pasts that could never be mine. I barely knew my grandmother Carpenter and can lay no ancestral claim to being “from” Cape Cod. I don’t even know if she was from there. Maybe she just retired to there. Somehow, historical aerial photographs of the coastal erosion of the Cape Cod National Seashore seemed to be the perfect, most sublime representation of this elusive, tenuous, quasi-fictional relationship.

For another example, take a look at one of my earliest works of electronic literature: Mythologies of Landforms and Little Girls [1996]. Mythologies is a non-linear narrative about a first crush as experienced by two children left to their own devices while the grown-ups are presumably busy elsewhere. A map of Nova Scotia operates as the interface and central image of the piece. I used geological images and terminology to further distance myself from rural Nova Scotia, and childhood in general. In this case, plate tectonic theory seemed to best represent the cataclysmic, renting split between the end of childhood obliviousness and the beginning of adult knowing.

At fault, as it were, seemed to be the sea,
always the sea, putting another meter between
Africa and the Americas every hundred years,
pushing Europe further and further away from
the Canadian Maritimes, in dutiful geology.

I will also suggest, for a print example of the evocation of the sublime through intertwined images of memory and place in my fiction, the very short story Precipice [2003]:

A habitual stomach-sleeper, she dreams of falling. Face down, the falling is more like flying; she never hits the ground. Often in her dreams of falling there is a precipice: a clearly defined line before which, perhaps for acres on end, grow grassy, sloping fields of thistle, pock-marked by dry caked dung. And after? Arriving at the precipice all fields and fences end abruptly and fall away. Forty feet below, there lies a beach of stones; a vague sense of bottom. And beyond: an inordinate amount of ocean.

In closing, let me thank you once again for your close reading of “The Cape” and you’re your thoughtful questions. It has been a pleasure. Very best, from Montreal,

J.R. Carpenter || Luckysoap & Co.
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The Cape: The Back-Story

Categories:  electronic literature, lecture, The Cape
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I was thrilled when Aurelea Mahood wrote to me back in September to say she’d be teaching my piece, The Cape, in her E-literature class at Capilano University, on Friday, October 10th, 2008. I would have come into the class to speak about the work in person, but Capilano University is in North Vancouver, British Columbia and I am in Montreal, Quebec. To bridge this vast distance, Aurelea came up with a creative solution: she invited me to be a guest blogger in her class.

In this blog post to CultureNet @ CapilanoU, I will present some background information about the creation of the work that wouldn’t necessarily be apparent from viewing/reading it. The students will then discuss and pose questions via blog comments, which I will attempt to answer in a timely manner. Here, then, is (one version of) the back-story of The Cape.

I built the web iteration of The Cape over the course of 10 days in August 2005, but some of the sentences in The Cape have been kicking around in my brain since the early 1990s. When I started writing the text of The Cape I was studying Studio Art, with a concentration in Fibres & Sculpture, at Concordia University in Montreal. At the time, I had no idea what to do with such seemingly simplistic yet somehow ponderous sentences as: My grandmother Carpenter lived on Cape Cod in a Cape Cod House. My uncle also lived on Cape Cod, but not in a Cape Cod House.

I was quite preoccupied with the conjoined notions of memory and place at the time. In the mid 1990s made a number of installations, interventions and artist’s books containing some of the same sentences that now appear in The Cape. This body of work, collectively entitled, “The Influence of a Maritime Climate,” was based on a passage from Michel Foucault’s Madness & Civilization:

“In the classical period the melancholy of the English was easily explained by the influence of a maritime climate, cold, humidity, the instability of the weather; all those fine droplets of water that penetrated the channels and fibers of the human body and made it lose its firmness, predisposed it to madness.”

Michel Foucault, Madness & Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason, trans. Richard Howard, NY: Vintage, 1988, pages 12-13.

I grew up in a maritime climate, in rural Nova Scotia. My father ran a Cape Islander (fishing boat) in the Bay of Fundy. He was English. He left when I was eight and I never saw him or his mother, my grandmother Carpenter, again. I don’t have a photograph of my grandmother Carpenter. If I did, I would insert it here. It’s true that I don’t have a photograph of my grandmother Carpenter, but I do have a photograph of her house, which is indeed a Cape Cod house. In the days before digital photography, a physical photograph had a certain authority – especially if it happened to be the only extant souvenir of a relative disappeared. I realized, when I wrote the above quoted sentence, that I had come to think of the photograph of my grandmother’s house as a photograph of her.

I hadn’t given my paternal grandmother’s English-ness, and thus my own English-ness, much thought. I was much more preoccupied with my maternal grandmother, a Jewish, Hungarian, Yiddish-speaking, first-generation American immigrant to the Lower East Side of New York City, with whom I had spent every summer, when I was growing up. Since moving to Montreal I had been attempting to put my rural, maritime origins behind me. Foucault’s phrase “the influence of a maritime climate” and the preposterous notion that “all those fine droplets of water that penetrated the channels and fibers of the human body” would predispose me – a half-English former Maritimer – to madness, opened the door, for me, to the possibility of writing fiction.

This was excellent timing as I had just discovered the Internet. I got my first Unix account in 1993, and promptly began posting fictional accounts of myself and my alternate pasts to various alt.arts USENET groups. For more about the many hours I spent in the Concordia University Unix lab, surrounded by computer science students, making stuff up off the top of my head, and how that led to a three-year stint managing a web development team for a multi-national software company, see: A Brief History of the Internet as I Know it So Far [2003]:

The Internet was totally textual back then. It had no interface. The joke of the day was, On the Internet no one knows you’re a dog. Everyone was talking about gender politics and how, on the Internet, you could role-play and construct your own identity. At the same time that everyone was obsessed with sexuality they were all claiming disembodiment, which seemed like a contradiction, even then.

“A brief history of the Internet as I know it so far,” J. R. Carpenter, Fish Piss, Vol. 2, No. 4, Montreal, QC, Fall/Winter 2003/2004.

Around the same time as I was reading too much Foucault for my own good, turning my paternal grandmother into a fictional entity and logging into MUDs and MOOs to tell nonsensical stories to total strangers, I came across a used copy of: Stephen P. Leatherman, Editor, Environmental Geologic Guide to Cape Cod National Seashore; Field Trip Guide Book for the Eastern Section of the Society of Economic Paleontologists & Mineralogists, National Park Service Cooperative Research Unit, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Mass., 1979.


My Family Album

The Geologic Guide contained many photographs of Cape Cod. I had only had the one photo of my grandmother’s house. The Guide was published in 1979, around the time of my one and only brief visit to Cape Cod. The only time we went to visit it was winter but we walked on the beach anyway. It occurred to me immediately to use the Geologic Guide photographs, charts, graphs and maps as stand-ins for non-existent family photos, and the Guide itself as a surrogate family album. This was much more interesting to me than the truth of what ever my family history had been. If only there was some way to put pictures on the Internet!

I was attracted to the black and white aesthetic of the Environmental Geologic Guide to the Cape Cod National Seashore. Before computers were readily available, I worked extensively with photocopiers. For more about how I almost got fired from my job in the Concordia University Fine Arts Slide Library for abusing their photocopy machine for artistic purposes, see this (only slightly) tongue-in-cheek essay: A Little Talk About Reproduction [2004]:

I can’t say that I woke up one morning and found myself in bed with the computer. My love affair with art was a youthful thing, impractical and highly idyllic. But my tryst with the photocopier was fully sordid and adult. We met at the office. The photocopier made itself invaluable to me by enlarging, reducing and reproducing endlessly. I would tell my friends that I had to work late. I would stay for hours after closing, making collages seemingly out of nothing, liberated in no uncertain terms, or so I thought, from physicality and from preciousness. Guilty of white lies, laziness and copyright infringement, I would scrub my toner stained hands before leaving the office.

“A Little Talk About Reproduction,” Fish Piss, Vol. 3, No. 1, Montreal, QC, Fall 2004.


It was winter but we walked on the beach anyway.

I graduated from art school in 1995, and made my first web project later that year at a residency at The Banff Centre for the Arts (as The Banff Centre was called back then). Many of my early web projects were in black and white because that’s what colour photocopies come in. The images in Fishes & Flying Things [1995], Notions of the Archival in Memory and Deportment [1996] and Mythologies of Landforms and Little Girls [1996] were all scanned from my massive collection of photocopies of diagrams and maps.

Although I have since made many works in colour, The Cape [2005] returns to the black and white aesthetic of those early works. This is in part because the Geologic Guide is entirely black and white, and in part because I had actually begun the project at the same time as those works. The Cape visually resembles those earlier works, but uses code elements that did not exist in 1995, such as IFRAMEs and DHTML timelines. The small, moving images you see on some pages of The Cape – on the Sound carries, especially in winter, page, for example – are actually large, still images being pushed behind a small IFRAME window by a long DHTML script. This means, in effect, that the text is moving the image. The use of DHTML timelines produces a silent, jumpy, staggering effect reminiscent of a super-8 film, which is how home movies would have been made in 1979.

The main reason it took me so long to create the web iteration of The Cape was not a technical one at all. It was, rather, a literary conundrum. I didn’t know how to make sense of those deceptively simple sentences. What a boring story this is. I revisited The Cape as a short story many times over the years. For a long time I thought the story had to be longer. Then I finally realized it had to be shorter. The shorter a story is, sometimes, the longer it takes to write. In the spring of 2005 an editor invited me to submit a very short story to a very small magazine. I sent The Cape, along with some diagrams from the Geologic Guide.


Print Copy of The Cape

After a decade of editing, the story finally seemed finished when I saw it in print. I immediately set to work on the electronic version. Months after the launch of The Cape, I created a mini-book version – a small, photocopied zine containing the text of The Cape and images from the Geologic Guide. The mini-book iteration of The Cape is exactly the sort of thing I would have made in art school. Finally, the work had come full circle.


3 Mini-Book Iterations of Electronic Literature Works

The Cape has been included in the Electronic Literature Collection Volume One, the Rhizome ArtBase, BathHouse, function:feminism and, most recently, an exhibition in Tasmania called Hunter/Gatherer. I’ve had a wide range of responses to the work. Some people are convinced it’s a true story, because it’s in the first person. Some are convinced I am an American, because Cape Cod is such an iconic American landmark. One reviewer recently wrote with great conviction that I had lived on Cape Cod, and I was a nostalgic for writing about it. I am nostalgic for lots of places, but not for Cape Cod. Cape Cod may well be a real place, but as far as I am concerned, The Cape is fictional.

I thank you for this opportunity to think back to these sentences of The Cape first entered my head and how they have shifted over time. And I thank your for your interest in and close reading of the piece. I will leave you now with this write-up of The Cape from Scot Cotterell, curator of Hunter/Gatherer:

Hunter/Gatherer: curatorial essay by Scot Cotterell
Hunter/Gatherer: Search Theory or Data Bodies in X.s.

J.R.Carpenter’s The Cape seeks to convolute fact and fiction by taking us on a user-controlled journey of fragmented narrative. The combination of formal, informal and sometimes seemingly inconsequential information activates an in-between state, a suspension of sorts where information seems ordered in meaningful ways, but we are never quite sure. For example, ‘Cape Cod is a real place, but the events and characters of THE CAPE are fictional. The photographs have been retouched. The diagrams are not to scale’ appears alongside anecdotal familial histories, ‘My grandmother Carpenter lived on Cape Cod, in a Cape Cod House. My uncle also lived on Cape Cod, but not in a Cape Cod house’. Using field trip guide books and environmental guides, old maps, diagrams, and collected source code filtered through a low-tech aura The Cape gracefully addresses the tension between the knowing of and mapping of place and memory by bringing together the connotative powers of fact and fiction.

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in absentia at Greasy Goose Salon

Categories:  electronic literature, in absentia, lecture
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Wednesday, September 24, 2008, I’ll give a brief presentation of in absentia at the Greasy Goose Salon – a monthly community lecture series. in absentia is a web-based writing project about gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End presented by DARE-DARE Centre de diffusion d’art multidisciplinaire de Montréal. It launched on June 24th, 2008, with a block party in Mile End’s parc sans nom. I have been adding new stories to the project over the summer. The in absentia closing party will be held in conjunction with the launch of my new novel, Words the Dog Knows, on November 7th, 2008, at Sky Blue Door, 5403 B Saint-Laurent, 7-11pm.


[screenshot from in absentia, J. R. Carpenter]

Greasy Goose Salon — MEMORY
Wednesday, September 24, 8pm
Cafe Cagibi (St. Laurent corner of St. Viateur)

Featuring, in no particular order:

Stephen Glasgow — Where is My Brain?
Jocelyn Parr — Music as Monument, or How Rock Stars Revived Memory of the Argentine Dictatorship
JR Carpenterin absentia – a web-based writing project about gentrification and its erasures in the Mile End
Stephanie Rogerson — Without Words You Spoke: early snapshot photography and queer representation

The Greasy Goose Salon is a monthly community lecture series. Our aim is to provide a forum for people to present their work or ideas in a friendly, community-minded atmosphere. Each event is based around a broad theme and features four speakers approaching the topic from various perspectives: academic presentations, artist talks, political lectures, literature readings, public speaking, short workshops, etc., etc. We are always interested in hearing your ideas for future themes or presentations. Please get in touch! http://thearchive.ca/greasygoose
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