Judy Malloy, Editor
J. R. Carpenter
Entre Ville (2006)
detail from J.R. Carpenter's
J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian artist, performer, poet, novelist, new media writer and researcher
based in South Devon, England. Her work is interesting and entertaining, creatively using software
and narrative to take the reader on explorations of community, animal companions, and the
lives of writers and artists.
She began using the Internet as a medium for the creation and
dissemination of non-linear narratives in 1993. Since that time, her work has been presented in
journals, festivals, and museums around the world, including the
Electronic Literature Collection, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art;
Montréal Museum of Fine Arts; Istanbul Contemporary Art Museum; The Art Gallery, Tasmania;
The University of Maryland; Jyväskylä Art Museum, Finland;
Kipp Gallery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania; E-Poetry, Barcelona, Spain;
the Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, England; and The Banff Centre, Canada.
She is a two-time winner of the Quebec Short Story competition, recipient of the Carte
Blanche Quebec Award, and recipient of research and production grants in literature and in
new media from the Conseil des Arts de Montréal, Conseil des arts et des lettres du
Quebéc and Canada Council for the Arts.
Her first novel, Words the Dog Knows, won the Expozine Alternative Press Award for Best
English Book. Her second book, GENERATION[S], a collection of code narratives, was published
by Traumawien in Vienna in 2010.
J. R. Carpenter is currently a member of faculty for In(ter)ventions: Literary
Practice at the Edge, a ground-breaking new residency program at The Banff Centre, in Canada, and
she is a practice-led PhD Researcher, working in the emerging and converging fields of
performance writing, digital literature, locative narrative, media archaeology and networked art practices
at University College Falmouth, in England.
In her statement for Authoring Software, she describes the creation of Entre Ville,
a new media work of locative poetry which uses an interactive graphic as an opening interface
to poetry, image, and video about a vibrant Montréal neighborhood.
was commissioned in 2006 by OBORO for the 50th
Anniversary of the Conseil des Arts de Montréal. It was published
in the Electronic Literature Collection, Volume Two.
More information about J. R. Carpenter can be found on her homepage at
J. R, Carpenter
The most important authoring tool used in the creation of Entre Ville is the
pen. The main interface was drawn with a pen in a notebook in 1992 while I was
apartment-hunting in the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal, the neighbourhood
Entre Ville is set in. I saved the physical notebook because I liked the
drawing, though I had no idea what if anything I'd ever do with it.
I also used a pen to write the poem, "Saint-Urbain Street Heat," which Entre
Ville is based on. I almost always write with a pen first, before editing on
the computer. In particular, a Japan Sailor fountain pen. "Saint-Urbain Street Heat"
was written in 2004 during a record-breaking heat wave in Montreal. I went down
to Vermont to escape and wrote and rewrote many drafts with the Japan Sailor
in a hammock with no computer access. Although I did eventually edit the
poem slightly in Microsoft Word, I think the poem retains a certain structure
that might have been quite different if I'd been working on the computer all
The poem "Saint-Urbain Street Heat" was published in an online journal based
in the UK called NthPosition in August 2005. The response was overwhelmingly
positive, so I decided I wanted to do more with the text - expand it into an
electronic literature project. I borrowed a video camera and started shooting
footage in the network of back alleyways referred to in the text.
In the fall of 2005 I was commissioned by Oboro, an artist-run center and new
media lab in Montreal, to create a new web based work for the 50th anniversary
of the Conseil des Arts de Montreal. The commission included a month's worth
of time in the Oboro New Media Lab, which is where I edited the 17 Quicktime
Videos included in Entre Ville. I edited in FinalCut Pro and used Cleaner
to export and crop the videos - approximately half are cropped to unconventional
As I was editing the videos I uncovered the old notebook with the line-drawing
of Mile End apartment buildings that I'd drawn in 1992 when first moving into
the neighborhood. I decided this would be the interface and planned all the
rest of the content around it.
I used a now ancient version of Photoshop to splice the notebook drawing
into small sections so that they could become roll-overs. I also used
Photoshop to process all the other interface images. Some images were
made from scanned objects, but most of the interface images were derived
from digital photos taken expressly for this project, and/or video stills
taken from the footage shot for this project.
For the web implementation I used Homesite, an old web authoring tool that
has since been absorbed into the Dreamweaver codebase. I prefer the text
only web authoring environment of Homesite and have been using it for so
long I see no reason to change. When I first started making web-based work
there were no WYSIWYG editors and I never got used to them. I spent a number
of years working in the software industry and came to loathe the version
release sales model. Since then I have been working entirely independently -
I have no money to update software and do everything possible to avoid
In Entre Ville I use a number of found, recycled and re-purposed DHTML and
them together. This recycled and collaged sensibility is in keeping with the
visual aesthetic of the work. It's also part of the do-it-yourself culture that
first attracted me to the internet. I learned everything I know about coding
from "View Source" and continue to enjoy figuring out new scripts by taking
them apart and putting them back together again.
The text of the poem "Saint-Urbain Street Heat" appears in an < iframe >
overlapping the notebook drawing. It scrolls with a DHTML script that I've
used in other projects. The main interface component, the notebook drawing,
uses a simple image rollover script to call up popup windows containing
Quicktime videos and other subsections of the poem. Other small images
float around the notebook drawings in relative position < div >. A number
of these small images, as well as a few text areas (such as the description line
under the main title) are nested in data arrays set to display randomly, so
that whenever one views the page one sees a slightly different combination
of images and texts. I intend this to mimic the way the neighbourhood always
looks a little bit different every time one goes out into it.
I have been told over and over again that Entre Ville should have been made
in Flash. I have no interest in Flash. For one thing, I like the idea that
the internet is all made out of text. I'm a writer so I want my texts to be
I aim for cross-browser / cross-platform compatiblity, scaleablility and graceful
fails. It seems important to keep in mind that everyone will see things
slightly differently - because of their browsers and platforms and also because
we are all human beings.
Writers and Artists
Talk about Their Work
and the Software They
use to Create Their Work
__Interview wirh Mark Bernstein
J. R. Carpenter
The Broadside of a Yarn
Chronicles of Pookie and JR
Egypt: The Book of
Going Forth by Day
Mark C. Marino
__Nick Montfort and
Sea and Spar Between
__Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between