J.R. Carpenter: Object-Oriented Interview by Andrea Zeffiro

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

November 2013 marked twenty years since artist, writer, performer, and researcher J. R. Carpenter first began using the internet as a medium for the creation and dissemination of experimental texts. This interview examines the material, formal, and textual traces of a number of pre-web media – including the LED scrolling sign, the slide projector, and the photocopy machine – which continue to pervade Carpenter’s digital work today.

Pull Quotes: 

Andrea Zeffiro: Could you set the scene, so to speak, as to what lead you online in 1993?

J.R. Carpenter: In 1993 I was in my third year of a Bachelor in Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal. I was majoring in Studio Art with a concentration in Fibers Structures and Sculpture. I was making stuff. Drawing, painting, sewing, crocheting, collage, book works, found object installations, assemblage. I didn’t own a computer. I was dead set against them. I hadn’t always been. I had a Commodore 64 as a kid that I mostly used to play text adventure games. One summer I spent a week at a Turbo Pascal Computer Camp. In retrospect, that was probably part of a cheaper-than-a-babysitter childcare scheme. I was a bit of a math wiz up until the 10th grade or so, after which point a succession of truly terrible math teachers turned me off. By the time I got to art school I had no idea what went on inside a computer. I had the impression that they were for other people and controlled by other people. Plus, they were expensive. I was extremely poor, and generally, however unwittingly, a Marxist. I had a roommate who had a computer. He spent a lot of time with it. Not even he could explain to me what went on inside of it. In the kitchen one morning he announced that he had renamed his hard drive Hard Dick, which certainly didn’t help matters.

It was one of my Fibers professors who finally dragged me kicking and screaming online. In 1992 Ingrid Bachmann launched an exhibition at The Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre called A Nomad Web: Sleeping Beauty Awakes, which was among the first networked art projects in Canada as far as I know.

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J. R. Carpenter