On Sea Birds, Castaways, and Phantom Islands off the Coast of Newfoundland

As a Visiting Fellow at the Eccles Centre for North American Studies at the British Library in London over the past few months I’ve been chasing fleeting references to phantom islands in cartographic and literary depictions of the New World during the sixteenth century. Since the first voyages to the cod-fishing grounds off Newfoundland, there have been reports of an Island of Demons in the region, reputedly inhabited by a curious mixture of wild animals, mythological creatures, evil spirits, and demons. These might sound like tall tales, but in 1542 a young French noblewoman was cast ashore on an island off Newfoundland bearing many of these characteristics, and lived to tell the tale.

In August I gave a talk about this research at the Summer Scholars Seminar Series at the British Library. An expanded version of that talk has been published on the British Library’s American Collection blog: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/americas/2015/10/sea-birds-castaways-and-phantom-islands-off-newfoundland.html

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore – a new article published in Performance Reserch Journal

Performance Reserch JournalThe latest issue of Performance Research Journal, On Writing & Digital Media, edited by Jerome Fletcher, includes an article written by me called: The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore. This articleemerges from my practice-led PhD research at Falmouth University in association with University of the Arts London. It has developed over the course of a number of conference papers presented in France and the UK over the past two years. I am very happy to see it out in the world in this format.

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore, by J. R. Carpenter, reflects upon The The Broadside of a Yarn, 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 nought but a QR code reader and a hand-made print map of dubious accuracy. The Broadside of a Yarn was commissioned by ELMCIP for Remediating the Social, an exhibition which took place at Inspace, Edinburgh, 1-17 November 2012. The Broadside of a Yarn remediates the broadside, a form of networked narrative popular from 16th century onward. Like the broadside ballads of old, the public posting of The Broadside of a Yarn signified that it was intended to be performed. Embedded within the cartographic space of this printed map are QR codes which link to web pages containing computer-generated narrative dialogues, performance scripts replete with stage instructions suggesting how and where these texts are intended to be read aloud. As such, these points on the physical map point to potential events, to utterances, to speech acts. The stated intention in creating this work was to use the oral story-telling tradition of the sailor’s yarn, the printed broadside and map, the digital network, and the walk-able city in concert to construct a temporary digital community connected through a performative pervasive networked narrative. Through the process of composition the focus shifted away from the temptation to lure people on walks through a city tagged with links to stories of the sea, toward a desire to compel people to collectively speak shifting sea stories ashore. This paper reflects critically upon this shift, toward an articulation of The Broadside of a Yarn as an collective assemblage of enunciation.

This is my first experience with publishing in an academic journal barricaded behind a paywall. If you are a student or a faculty member of a university with access to Shibboleth, you should have no problem accessing the contents of Performance Research Journal online. If not, try this link: The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore. If that doesn’t work, drop me a line, I’ll see what I can do.

The Broadside of a Yarn: A Situationist Strategy for Spinning Sea Stories Ashore

Announcing The Broadside of a Yarn, a new hybrid print-digital-performance-writing work by J. R. Carpenter, commissioned by ELMCIP for Remediating the Social, launching at Inspace in Edinburgh 1 November 2012.

In theory, The Broadside of a Yarn is a multi-modal performative pervasive networked narrative attempt to chart fictional fragments of new and long-ago stories of near and far-away seas with naught but a QR code reader and an unbound atlas of hand-made maps of dubious accuracy. In practice, this project is, in a Situationist sense, a willfully absurd endeavour. How can I, a displaced native of rural Nova Scotia (New Scotland), perform the navigation of a narrative route through urban Edinburgh (Old Scotland)? How can any inhabitant of dry land possibly understand the constantly shifting perspective of stories of the high seas?

The Broadside of a Yarn

The Broadside of a Yarn remediates the broadside, a form of networked narrative popular from 16th century onward. Broadsides were written on a wide range of topical subjects, cheaply printed on single sheets of paper (often with images), widely distributed, and posted and performed in public. During the Remediating the Social exhibition (Inspace, Edinburgh, 1-25 November 2012), The Broadside of a Yarn will be posted as a grid of A3-sized square maps, and freely distributed as broadside-sized sheet (while supplies last).

Like the printed broadside ballads of old, the public posting of The Broadside of a Yarn signifies that it is intended to be performed. Embedded within the highly visual cartographic space of this printed map are QR codes which link mobile devices to a collection of separate yet interrelated web pages containing computer-generated narrative dialogues. They may propose imprecise and possibly impossible walking routes through the city. Or they may serve as scripts for poli-vocal performances.

The Broadside of a Yarn

The Broadside of a Yarn will be performed in four or possibly five voices (microphone availability depending) Thursday 1st November 20.00 in the Sculpture Court of Edinburgh College of Art. For more information, please see the Remediating the Social program.

A comprehensive overview of the Remediating the Social conference and exhibition has bee posted on Electronic Literature Authoring Software by Judy Malloy: ELMCIP Invites Scholars and Artists to Remediating the Social, Edinburgh, November 1-3, 2012

For more information – including a bibliography of the wide range of maps and literary works cited in The Broadside of a Yarn – and to view more images of the print maps to be installed at Inspace, please visit Luckysoap.com.

Reading List 2011

Since 1996 I’ve been noting the author and title of each book I’ve read in a red book a little larger than A5 size, worn at the spine now, but with plenty of pages left as there were plenty of pages to begin with. Since 2005 I’ve been duplicating those entries here on Lapsus Linguae. Whether in book or digital form, the resulting document cannot properly be called a reading list. I’ve only ever listed books read, and only those read cover to cover. In the beginning this made sense because I mostly only read books and lots of them and almost all of them from cover to cover. I still read lots of books, but finish fewer of them.

So much of what I’m reading these days is research-related, parsed for the parts I need, those parts then heavily annotated, read and re-read. I read more online now that I used to, but not books – articles. I also spend a lot more time in libraries than I used to, but rarely for book-related reasons. Most of my time at the Bodleian Library this year has been spent with the Marconi Archive, sifting through boxes of loose sheets of papers. Though I’ve read more than a book’s worth of correspondence written in Marconi’s atrocious handwriting, that reading is not reflected here. At the British Library, much time has been spent leaning over large tables in the Maps and Manuscripts reading rooms. Perhaps Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres, The Atlantic Neptune should appear on this list. It is a book, a massive book, three volumes worth. Though it contains charts rather than chapters, I’ve read every page. Same goes for John Dee’s 1580 map of the world upon the back of which Dee outlines England’s claim to the America’s for Queen Elizabeth. It is only one page, or sheet of vellum rather, but it may be one of the most important documents in Canadian history. And then there are all the variations on Samuel de Champlain’s maps of Nouvelle-France I’ve pored over, and the vintage guide books I’ve not followed, and the stacks of post cards…

[ desk stack 09/09/2011 ]

Over the past two years this habitually kept list of authors and titles of books read has become less and less and less representative of what I’m actually reading. Which makes it all the more interesting in certain ways. Map-related books figure prominently, as to voyages and travelogues and books on walking. Media theory, of course. And network communications. A number of books listed here are re-reads. I got most of the way through A Hacker Manifesto years ago, but had to return it to the library eventually, with fines owing. Foucault makes way more sense to me now than in 1998, when I first attempted the same battered copy of The Order of Things I have with me here in England. The Rings of Saturn is even more haunting now after having walked in Suffolk myself. We’ve all read bits and pieces of The Travels of Sir John Mandeville – it’s almost odd to read them together at last, all of a piece. Darwin is an elegant prose stylist, who knew? Why did it take me so long to stumble over Cha’s brilliant Dictee? The year’s reading began with the utterly original Riddley Walker and ended with its author Russell Hoban’s passing. So many quirky odd-ball intriguing wandering wonderful books browsed, borrowed, bought and begun in between. Other still on the go. Those finished, listed below:

  • McKenzie Wark, A Hacker Manifesto
  • W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn
  • Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee
  • Michel Foucault, The Order of Things
  • Mandeville, The Travels of Sir John Mandeville
  • Hakluyt, Voyages and Discoveries
  • Gillian Cookson, The Cable
  • Courtney Rowe, Marconi at The Lizard: The story of communication systems at Housel Bay
  • J. G. Ballard, Concrete Island
  • Iain Sinclair, Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project
  • William Gibson, Zero History
  • Douglas Coupland, Marshall McLuhan: You Know Nothing of My Work!
  • Roberto Simanowski, Digital Art and Meaning: Reading Kinetic Poetry, Text Machines, Mapping Art, and Interactive Installations
  • Francesco Careri, Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice
  • Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian, The Wide Road
  • Gertrude Stein, Lucy Church Amiably
  • Karen Russell, Swamplandia
  • McKenzie Wark, The Beach Beneath the Street: The Everyday Life and Glorious Times of the Situationist International
  • Guy Debord, Comments on the Society of the Spectacle
  • Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter
  • Marshal McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man
  • Robert C. O’Brien, Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
  • Lydia Davis, Cows
  • Adam Lebor, The Budapest Protocol
  • Russell Shorto, The Island at the Center of the World: The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony that Shaped America
  • Charles Darwin, The Voyages of the Beagle
  • Lauren Beukes, Zoo City
  • Ben Marcus, The age of Wire And String
  • Steven Millhauser, In The Penny Arcade
  • Sandra Barry, Elizabeth Bishop: Nova Scotia’s “Home-made” Poet
  • Brett C. Millier, Elizabeth Bishop: Life and the Memory of It
  • Jean-Jacques Lecercle, Deluze and Language
  • Maya Merrick, Sextant
  • H.D., end to torment
  • Andrea di Robilant, Venetian Navigators: The Voyages of the Zen Brothers to the Far North
  • Franco Moretti, Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for Literary History
  • Rachel Hewitt, Map of a Nation: A Biography of the Ordnance Survey
  • Jeffrey Sconce, Haunted media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television
  • Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
  • Judith Schalansky, Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will
  • Elisabeth Belliveau, Don’t Get Lonely Don’t Get Lost
  • Jonathan Safran Foer, Tree of Codes
  • Jay David Bolter, Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print
  • Rita Raley, Tactical Media
  • Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year
  • Russell Hoban, Riddley Walker

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: http://www.leoalmanac.org/index.php/lea/exhibition/lea_new_media_exhibition/

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

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

Darting Stories Remix

As E-Writer-in-Residence at Dartington College, in Devon, England, this fall, I led a workshop on electronic literature with a concentration on literary mapping with first year Performance Writing Students. Over the course of the workshop students generated short texts for zines, postcards, epitaphs, blog posts and web maps. Though written separately, these texts explored common themes of place, mapping, the River Dart, Dartington and the past occupants (fictional or otherwise) of Dartington Hall. The workshop exercises and the texts they produced are archived on a group blog: Darting Blog. These texts are presented collectively as a final project on a Google Map: DARTING: A Collective Story Map

The last session of the workshop focused on remixing. I created a Darting Stories Remix by taking sentences from the various (and varied) texts archived on the Darting Blog and fed them into one of Nick Montfort’s Python story generators. I had used this same method earlier in the year to create Excerpts from the Chronicles of Pookie and JR.

For the purposes of this Darting Stories Remix, I shortened some of the sentences or selected excerpts from longer sentences to fit into the Python story generator format, and changed them all into the present tense and first person. Otherwise, these remain sentences written separately by separate authors remixed by a Python script to make collectively authored stories.

To read the Darting Stories Remix, download this file to your desktop and unzip: Darting.py On a Mac or Linux system, you can run the story generator by opening a Terminal Window, typing “cd Desktop”, and typing “python Darting.py”. Hint: look for Terminal in your Utilities folder. This Python story generator runs on Windows, too, but you will probably need to install Python first: version 2.6. Once Python is installed you can double click on the file and it will automatically launch and run in the terminal window. Every time you press Return a new version of the story will appear. For example:

Here are a few more examples of stories generated by this script:

Darting Stories:
How do I write an epitaph about myself in the first person?.
Through the depths of the water I reflect far and wide.
Hadrian’s Wall might have mostly come down, but it’s there in spirit.
Mad, that’s what they call me.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Striving to connect with something natural.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
At the start, I look for the lights.
What do names matter when worlds whirl together?.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I pass out in the dirt-floored cellar most nights.
Sunlight barely reaches the stone floor.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
The sea is a place I understand is rather nice.
Introvert, extravert, ingreen.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I stride up hill holding hands with a friend named for the greatest flower.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I scare their dogs by trying to speak with them in their own language.
Graceless truths of tears clutch at the mirage in my room.
The ponies look more listless and less majestic.
It gets so muddy here; no wonder all the cows around here are brown.
The wind gives the landscape something of a facial peel.
Splash water into mud, trip me.
Smouldering timber and melancholy permeate my lungs. I stick to the path.
This the most achingly beautiful place to come across a little death.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
On this hill the world as we know it collided.
Intoxicating tongues speak of Giants, Merlins, Padfoots and Beasts.
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s accounts are unfounded, possibly fabricated.
The clay on the wheel beneath my fingers, whirling a world on its axis.
William, sweet or otherwise, has never been my name.
I crave little more than my freedom, my air, and my land.
I don’t live in a house, where they could watch me.
I live along the Dart but not around the towns where they patrol.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
I am a fervent keeper of horses, ponies and barns.
To be continued…

Darting Stories:
Stories run off the Moor with it’s river waters.
I will walk directionless, till the unknown end.
Fear and bliss live with me and the room contains me.
Websta’s brother died in the Dart. Had his throat slit.
Black looms in the distance, the air thick with distaste.
The Waters of the Dart run across stones fallen from foreign clouds.
Map the most important places around the River Dart.
Exmoor, outmore, out the door, more doors.
More floor, less flaws, less cause, pour, pore, sweat, regret.
Skip over Kandinsky pavement, follow the water.
Flotsam on a tidal river is a strange mixture of oak leaves and seaweed.
To be continued…
. . . . .

DARTING: A Collective Story Map

Over a period of five weeks a collective of writers of the River Dart worked collaboratively on a web-based writing project about the River Dart and the history – fictional or otherwise – of Dartington Hall. A series of short texts were written separately, for zines, postcards and blog posts. These texts were then collected, found texts and images were added, and all were collated onto this Google Map:


For more information on how the writers of the River Dart came to collectively create DARTING: A Collective Story Map, visit their blog: http://dartingmap.blogspot.com/
. . . . .

E-Writer in Residence, Dartington Campus, UCF

This fall I am the Performance Writing E-Writer in Residence at University College Falmouth’s Dartington Campus, located on the Dartington Hall Estate, a 1,200 acre mixture of arable and pastoral farmland, woodland, residential and commercial accommodation. Written records of this site do not begin until the thirteenth century, but there is evidence of considerable activity in the area during the Roman occupation and the manor of Dartington is mentioned in a Royal Charter of 833 AD. The buildings and structures situated on the estate range in age from Deer Park Wall and Earth Works at North Wood which date from the Bronze and Iron Ages, to the main Hall which was built in 1388, to those properties which were built by the Elmhirsts in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The site has been continuously occupied for well over a thousand years, but this is the last year that Performance Writing will be located here, so I feel most fortunate to be here at this time.

My duties at E-Writer in Residence mostly involve sitting in my office, working on my work. The above photo is not a view from my office, thankfully, or I’d be too busy staring out the window to get any work done. One of my favourite things about the campus is how, to get from one side of it to the other, you have to walk across part of a cow pasture with actual cow pats in it (not pictured). I do this sometimes just to go to the library to visit the copy of my novel that they have there. I’m also leading an electronic literature workshop with the Performance Writing undergraduates, with a concentration on literary mapping. And I’ll do a public reading on the Dartington Campus Thursday 3 December, 7.30pm in Studio 3 (free). This will be the last in a series of three performances dedicated to readings featuring innovative and dynamic writers. For more information on this event, visit The Arts at Dartington.
. . . . .

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.
. . . . .

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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