Elvia Wilk in Conversation with J. R. Carpenter

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Electronic Literature is a loaded and slippery category. It is rather dryly defined by the Electronic Literature Organization (what other art form needs a governing body?) as “works with important literary aspects that take advantage of the capabilities and contexts provided by the stand-alone or networked computer.” Does this mean everything or nothing?

If there’s one person who knows the ins and outs of e-Lit as a category and an institution, it’s J. R. Carpenter. The Canadian artist, writer, performer – and myriad other titles – first logged onto the internet in November 1993, and has been deeply invested in making work both online and off ever since. This work floats across all mediums: zines, novels, hypertext fictions and performances, all referencing and circling back on each other.

In February 2013, writer Elvia Wilk took part in a writing residency at the Banff Center called In(ter)ventions: Literary Practice at the Edge, a yearly program where J. R. is a member of faculty. Banff is also an important place in the development of J. R.’s work; it was during a 1995 residency there that she made her first hypertext project. Recently Elvia and J. R. caught up with each other in London to re-hash many of the issues they talked about while together at Banff – dissecting various (misleading) terms in the e-Lit field, going over projects both new and old, discussing code as performance writing, and ending up on a chain of imaginary islands.

Pull Quotes: 

EW: Code writing is a performance in which the text performs itself very literally.

JRC: It’s a great methodology to apply to something like digital literature, because you’ve got so many different processes happening at once. N. Katherine Hayles talks about the digital text as being “event-ialized.” I contact a server, and that server contacts another server somewhere, which sends something back, and then the source code performs in the browser, which calls on various aspects of the CPU to make activity happen…so it’s not just one text, it’s a text that’s distributed through what Deleuze & Guattari would call a “machinic assemblage.” This is how I think of the computer-generated texts and code narratives in my work.

Critical writing referenced:

Events referenced:

Titlesort descending Date Location
Electronic Literature Organization 2013: Chercher le texte 23.09.2013
Centre Pompidou
19 Rue Beaubourg
75004 Paris
École nationale supérieure des arts décoratifs
31 Rue Ulm
75005 Paris
Bibliothèque nationale de France
Quai François Mauriac
Le Cube
20 Cours Saint-Vincent
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J. R. Carpenter