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.

A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows at MiT6, April 24, 2009

I will be presenting a paper called “A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows” at MiT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, an international conference taking place at MIT April 23-27, 2009. In this paper I will trace the paths that select portions of my first novel, Words the Dog Knows, have traveled: from ear to eye to pen to paper to computer to printer to publisher to video to audio to web to eye to ear and back to pen again, with the novel’s precursive zines and web-based iterations as visual aides.

J. R. Carpenter, A Book-ish Novel: Transmediation in Words the Dog Knows
Friday, April 24, 2009, 2:30-4 room 66-168 (campus map).

MiT6: Stone and Papyrus, Storage and Transmission, MIT April 23-27, 2009.

In his seminal essay “The Bias of Communication” Harold Innis distinguishes between time-based and space-based media. Time-based media such as stone or clay, Innis agues, can be seen as durable, while space-based media such as paper or papyrus can be understood as portable, more fragile than stone but more powerful because capable of transmission, diffusion, connections across space.

Speculating on this distinction, Innis develops an account of civilization grounded in the ways in which media forms shape trade, religion, government, economic and social structures, and the arts. Our current era of prolonged and profound transition is surely as media-driven as the historical cultures Innis describes.

His division between the durable and the portable is perhaps problematic in the age of the computer, but similar tensions define our contemporary situation. Digital communications have increased exponentially the speed with which information circulates. Moore’s Law continues to hold, and with it a doubling of memory capacity every two years; we are poised to reach transmission speeds of 100 terabits per second, or something akin to transmitting the entire printed contents of the Library of Congress in under five seconds.

Such developments are simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. They profoundly challenge efforts to maintain access to the vast printed and audio-visual inheritance of analog culture as well as efforts to understand and preserve the immense, enlarging universe of text, image and sound available in cyberspace. What are the implications of these trends for historians who seek to understand the place of media in our own culture?

What challenges confront librarians and archivists who must supervise the migration of print culture to digital formats and who must also find ways to preserve and catalogue the vast and increasing range of words and images generated by new technologies? How are shifts in distribution and circulation affecting the stories we tell, the art we produce, the social structures and policies we construct?

What are the implications of this tension between storage and transmission for education, for individual and national identities, for notions of what is public and what is private?

The first Media in Transition conference was held in 1999 and marked the launch of the MIT graduate program in Comparative Media Studies. Since then, four bi-annual conferences have been held, co-sponsored by CMS and the MIT Communications Forum, with each new conference generating a more internationally diverse audience than its predecessor.

I have presented at two previous Media in Transition conferences:

MiT4: the work of stories (2005)

MiT5: creativity, ownership and collaboration in the digital age (2007)
. . . . .

MiT5 Endnotes

MiT5 whizzed by in a drizzly blur. As one panellist noted: The weather in New England is a lot like the weather in Old England. Water logged lab rats, we scurried through MIT’s campus maze, almost but not quite able to get where we were going without going outside. The conference theme: “creativity, ownership and collaboration in the digital age.” There was less talk of ownership than of appropriation. Sadly no amount of creativity or collaboration could rid the digital age of rain.

Speaking of ownership, last month I lost my travel umbrella. Last week I replaced it with a used and improved one, liberated from the Lost and Found of the bar where a friend works. This semi-ill-gotten umbrella dripping at my feet, I squirmed uneasily through more than one academic paper cavalierly condoning remix culture’s five-fingered appropriation of other people’s images texts structures and ideas. The Colbert report got high marks for opening itself up to user editing. Nice advertising for Colbert. Hip-hop was idealized for it’s sampling and remixing of culture. Great for the producers, great for the moguls, but not so hot if you’re an up and comer being told what to sample so it sells, or if you’re an indi-artist getting your beats ripped, or if you’re a consumer tired of the radio play list mix. MiT5 did not seem to be critical of what was being sampled. No place to say: no more songs about guns, bitches and hos.

Me: What nobody’s talking about here is money. Academic: Oh, there are plenty of other environments to talk about money in. Give me a break. Though this view appeared to be the prevalent one, I don’t buy it (no pun intended). I worked in the software industry for so long, my critique is tinged with scepticism. After sifting through executive staff rhetoric, world wide sales projection optimism and the codified concerns of corporate lawyers, the stated themes of MiT5 sounded naïve at times, trite even, when divorced from any economic consideration.

There are economics at play in who gets to attend a conference. Not every panellist was an academic and not every academic was staying in a hotel paid for by his university. One professor told me that as an educator he felt he had to stay to hear that evening’s plenary, but as a human being he couldn’t bear it, and besides, he had a three-hour drive home. Another didn’t have his laptop with him because he was staying at a youth hostel. Instead he spent his evenings reading poetry and walking the streets of Cambridge. Nice. Yet another professor was staying in Allston. Actually, he was a research fellow. But still. He had my respect. Allston, that’s keeping it real.

I remain impressed by and grateful to MIT for keeping the Media in Transition conference series free of charge and open to an incredibly broad spectrum of presenters. That can’t be easy. I was especially pleased to see how many more artists presented at MiT5 than at MiT4. I wish I’d made it to more presentations. 25 people speak at once. Far too often there are four people to a panel. If even one paper runs long – the height of unprofessional rudeness, but sadly the norm – the rest get squeezed, leaving no time for discussion.

Like most of the artists I spoke to, the only way I could afford to attend this conference was by taking the Greyhound down and staying with a friend. At the end of each day, the #1 Bus shuttled me from the pillars and porticos of MIT to cracked-out Roxbury, where my friend Lana lives in a loft next door to a boarded up drug store. She says people used to smoke crack underneath the DRUGS sign, until someone stole the sign. They still smoke crack there but now it’s less ironic.

One morning, a woman with drug-rotten teeth tried to get me to take her kids on the bus for her, to save her the fare. Just picture me and two crack babies busting in on some gamer theory session broadcast live on Second Life.

Sometimes real life, Second Life and conference life just don’t synch up. I missed some early sessions because my hostess doesn’t sleep. One night we stayed up late rewriting all her artist’s statements – not exactly collaboration, but after all the conference talk about authorship and overwiting, I felt it my duty as a guest to earn my keep by translating her garbled visual art speak into actual English. Another night we stayed up late making a movie. She tried to hold the camera steady, tried not to laugh, while I told a long story about how I happened to have two dramatically different maps in my notebook, drawn by two dramatically different girls, both giving directions to a notorious party spot in Banff known as The House of Sin.

The notebook as interface, the non-linear story as tangent engine. Just like Entre Ville, we realized in the morning. http://luckysoap.com/entreville

I like conferences, despite their occasionally glaring disconnection from real life. And I like real life, despite its occasionally disheartening disconnection from how life ought to work in theory. I especially like the occasional blurring of the two. Most of the breakout sessions were held in classrooms. Artists and academics projected web and PowerPoint presentations onto white screens bracketed by black blackboards covered with mathematical equations surely few if any of us could understand. Conference attendees mingled with students in the hall. I got a student discount on lunch one day!

In the Bartos Media Lab audience members watched the conference unfolding in real-time on stage. Some doubled up on the real by following along on their laptops the plenary sessions broadcast live on Second Life. The sound of typing surged whenever something clever was said. Someone stepped up to the mike to comment on our cultural condition of constant divided attention. A flurry of typing followed. A rainfall of fingers keyboard tapping, I wrote in my notebook.

It rained all weekend, typing and the wet stuff. Thanks MIT, for mixing up art and academics, theory and practice, for offering up so much information to such a broad audience in such a short period of time. A lot to soak up. And only time for tip of the iceburg comments here. I’ll be sorting though my notes for a long time.
. . . . .

Greetings From Entre Ville

Entre Ville is a web art project based on a heat wave poem.

It was commissioned by OBORO, a Gallery and New Media Lab in Montréal. The commission was made possible by the Conseil des arts de Montréal. In 2006, on the occasion of their 50th anniversary, the Conseil solicited commissions of new works in each of the artistic disciplines that it funds. Tasked with selecting the New Media commission, Daniel Dion – Director and Co-Founder of OBORO – felt that a web-based work had the most potential to be accessible to a wide range of Montréaliase for the duration of the anniversary year and beyond. The commission included a four-week residency at the OBORO New Media Lab.

OBORO Studio 3

Entre Ville launched at the Muse des beaux-arts de Montréal on April 27, 2006.

Un 50e anniversaire – En ville et sur l’île
Pierre Vallée – Le Devoir – Édition du samedi 29 et du dimanche 30 avril 2006

On April 27, 2007, exactly one year after its launch, I will present Entre Ville: this city between us at MiT5: creativity, ownership and collaboration in the digital age, the fifth conference in MIT’s Media in Transition Conference series. MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA. April 27-29, 2007.

This conference paper was a joy to write, a testament to what a pleasure it’s been to represent OBORO and the Conseil des arts de Montréal. I’ve posted a slimmed down presentation version on Entre Ville [click on the Bibliotheque Mile End] or follow this link: Entre Ville: this city between us

Entre Ville

Summer is coming. Step into the heat.
. . . . .

Responsa: An Overview

Responsa Literature: partial replies to scattered letters

Introduction: confessions of an avid letter writer

Why is it that everyone I know lives in New York?

Part I: Writing is Hard

“Irene left a note on his kitchen table. The spelling was weak and Irene, examining her note, marvelled at how difficult writing things down was compared to saying them. Saying something was as easy as laughing; writing caused you grief, as though you were mourning somebody who had abandoned you too soon.”
Rose Tremaine, Sacred Country

Part II: Writing from Exile

“Is the place any token of the author?”
“indicat auctorem locus?”

Part III: Responsa

“What conditions precipitate the writing of a letter? A physical distance separates the writer from the reader and we write to cover that distance. Wherever we are, when we write, we write from a local position. Time passes between the writing of the letter and the reading of it; more time passes between the reading and the reply. ‘Between the too warm flesh of the literal event and the cold skin of the concept runs meaning.’ [Derrida] From his exile at the edge of the Empire, Ovid writes: ‘“In so long a time why has not they hand done its duty and completed even a few lines?’ The reply embodies another question. ‘Is not the writing of the question, by it’s decision, by its resolution, the beginning of repose and response?’ [Derrida]”
J. R. Carpenter, Responsa

Part IV: Network Communication

Me: Hey, how come this anonmous ftp thing doesn’t work?

Tech: You spelled anonymous wrong.

Me: Again.

Me: I heard about this thing called pine for reading email.
Do you know about that?

Tech: Yeah.

Me: Well, how do I get it?

Tech: Pine is for weenies.

Me: I’m a weenie.

Tech: vi editor rules.

Me: I want pine.

an escerpt from the essay:
“A brief history of the Internet as I know it so far”
J. R. Carpenter 2003.

Part V: Location, Location, Location

When we write, we write from a local position.

“My dear Herr Kappus: I have left a letter of yours long unanswered, not that I had forgotten it – on the contrary: it was of the kind that one reads again when one finds it among other letters, and I recognized you in it as if you were close at hand. It was the letter of May 2nd, and you doubtless remember it. When I read it, as I do now, in the great stillness of this faraway place, your beautiful concern for life moves me even more than I experienced it in Paris, where everything has a different ring and dies away by reason of the monstrous noise that makes all things tremble. Here, where a vast countryside is around me, over which the winds come in from the seas, here I feel that there is nowhere a human being who can answer you those question and feelings which have a life of their own within their depths; for even the best men go astray with words, where these are to express something very gentle and almost unutterable.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, written from ‘Temporarily at Worpswede near Bremen, July 16th, 1903. Letters to a Young Poet

Part VI: Optimism

“Router level Interconnectivity of the Internet looks like a giant, blood-shot eyeball.” from “Digital Crustaceans v.0.2: Homesteading on the Web” and art review by J. R. Carpenter of a show
Ingrid Bachmann at Gallery Articule, Montréal, Québec, April 4 – May 4 2003.

“Pookie” – a biological, digital, quasi-fictional manifestation of Ingrid Bachmann’s imagination – explores a fascinating corner of the web at www.digitalhermit.ca

In Closing:

“Nothing is more occult than the way letters, under the auspices of unimaginable carriers, circulate through the weird mess of civil wars; but whenever, owing to that mess, there was some break in our correspondence, Tamara would act as if she ranked deliveries with ordinary natural phenomena such as the weather or tides, which human affairs could not affect, and she would accuse me of not answering her, when if fact I did nothing by write to her and think of her during those months – despite my many betrayals.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

Related Links:

Nomad Web: Sleeping beauty awakes, by Ingrid Bachmann

the electronic version of The Virtual Community, by Howard Rheingold

A Vernacular Web, by Olia Lialina

A little Talk About Reproduction, by J. R. Carpenter

All this with pictures:

. . . . .

MIT4: The Work of Stories

Responsa Literature: partial replies to scattered letters
J. R. Carpenter
Abstract: The term “responsa literature” refers to all written rulings made by rabbis under Jewish law, in response to questions submitted to them in writing, throughout the post-Talmudic period. Initially, the great distances that separated Diaspora Jewry from the scholars of Babylon necessitated this type of question and response law making. Montréal poet Anne Carson has written: “People in exile write so many letters.” She speaks of Ovid who, nightly, “puts on sadness like a garment and goes on writing.” I was, in effect, born in exile. A first generation Canadian, I spent much of my early life writing letters to my grandmother, trying to piece together a story for her of who I was and to elicit from her some idea of where I had come from. She rarely wrote back. When she died I found that she had saved my letters, stuffed in no apparent order, into books and piles and drawers. I have since become fascinated with collections of letters. In this paper, I will draw on letters, literature and historical sources to discuss ways in which contemporary forms of diaspora, as may result from divorce, emigration, or economic migration, alter family narratives. I will explore some of the ways in which media and communication technologies have forever altered the responsa form. Letter writing has re-emerged, in the form of email. Does the immediacy of this question and response mode of communicating bring us any closer to piecing together an idea of who we are and where we come from?

Presentation Friday May 6, 2005
Call Session 2, 5 – 6:30
Room 56-167, MIT
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