Judy Malloy, Editor
The Broadside of a Yarn
Detail from J.R. Carpenter: The Broadside of a Yarn
J. R. Carpenter is a Canadian artist, performer, poet, novelist, new media writer and researcher,
based in South Devon, England. 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; Palazzo delle arti Napoli in Naples,
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.
Commissioned by ELMCIP for the 2012 Remediating the Social
exhibition in Edinburgh, The Broadside of a Yarn is a richly detailed 21st century locative
broadside, in which a series of computer-generated narrative dialogues are accessed via QR codes.
One generator "is composed entirely of dialogue from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer.
Another contains lines of dialogue from Shakespeare's The Tempest," she explains in her
Authoring Software statement. "Details from many a high sea story have been netted by
this net-worked work. The combinatorial powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and
confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative accounts of fantastical islands, impossible
pilots, and voyages into the unknown undertaken over the past 2340 years."
Existing not only as a series of gallery mounted "map squares" of images found and/or created,
in Edinburgh but also as a live many-voiced performance, The Broadside of a Yarn was/is in her words
"a pervasive performative wander through a sea of sailors' yarns".
More information about J. R. Carpenter can be found on her homepage at
J. R. Carpenter: The Broadside of a Yarn, November 2012
The Broadside of a Yarn was commissioned by
Electronic Literature as a Model for Creativity in Practice (ELMCIP) for
Remediating the Social, an exhibition which took place at Inspace, Edinburgh, UK,
November 1-17, 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 nought but a QR reader and a hand-made map of dubious accuracy.
In practice, this project is, in a Situationist sense, a wilfully absurd endeavor.
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 remediates the broadside,
a form of networked narrative popular from 16th century onward. Broadsides were written
on a wide range of 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,
The Broadside of a Yarn was posted as a discontinuous map printed on 15
A3-sized foam-core-mounted squares arranged in an asymmetrical grid in a 5m x 3m light-box
situated in the main entrance of Inspace gallery, visible from the street.
Each of these map squares is composed of a wide range of images, most of which were collected
during a research trip I took to Edinburgh in May 2012. These include photographs taken on my
Canon G11, and scans of details of maps, charts, drawings, and diagrams found in books, pamphlets,
prints and other ephemera gleaned from used and antiquarian bookshops. The Old Town Bookshop
was particularly helpful. Other image and text research was undertaken on The National Library of
Scotland website, and in The British Library and The Bodleian Library Maps collections.
Each map square was composed separately in Photoshop and Gimp and printed at Edinburgh Copyshop.
Each is embedded with one or more QR codes, such as the one pictured below. These were created using a free third-party website called
Each QR code is links to a computer-generated narrative text. In order to access these texts, the QR codes must be scanned
by a smart phone, tablet, or laptop equipped with an internet connection, a camera, and QR code reader, a wide variety of which are available for
free download. Although QR codes are woefully unattractive they remain the simplest way to link a physical print surface to a digital text.
I used a portion of the ELMCIP commission to engage Steve Booth, Amy McDeath, Braille Fem,
and Caden Lovelace in an extended conversation toward the creation of an extensible code base for authoring
slot-type word-level text generators. Booth et. al. wrote a generator engine in
to create 13 different computer-generated narrative dialogues. Most though not all of these are
intended to serve as scripts for poly-vocal performances. Some, such as Walks from City Bus Routes,
propose imprecise and possibly impossible walking routes through the city. Others, such as Notes
on the Voyage of Owl and Girl, may suggest a journey of another kind, a pervasive performative
wander through a sea of sailors' yarns.
The generator linked to from this QR code is composed entirely
of dialogue from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer.
Another contains lines of dialogue from Shakespeare's
Details from many a high sea story have been netted by this net-worked work. The combinatorial
powers of computer-generated narrative conflate and confabulate characters, facts, and forms of narrative
accounts of fantastical islands, impossible pilots, and voyages into the
unknown undertaken over the past 2340 years.
On one hand, a print map hung in a gallery exhibition for three weeks, offers but a narrow window
of access to such a vast and varied body of digital text. On the other hand, this discontinuous print
map is infinitely expansible. Any number of new map squares may be added at any time. In part to
extend the life of The Broadside of a Yarn beyond the
Remediating the Social exhibition, and in part to further the remediation of the broadside
as a form, I also created an A3-sized subset of the gallery map, which was handed out freely
during the exhibition and which continues to circulate through gift exchange economies and
postal networks. This map collages together imagery and QR codes from some but not all of the
gallery map squares. It was created in Photoshop and Gimp and printed at Totcom Copy Centre in Totnes.
The folding of 500 A3 sheets into map form took rather longer than expected and became something
of a performance in the gallery space in the lead-up to the opening of the exhibition, November 1,
Immediately following the gallery opening there was a performance event in the Sculpture Court of
Edinburgh College of Art, in which, a number of the computer-generated
narrative dialogues in The Broadside of a Yarn were performed by myself,
Jerome Fletcher, Judd Morrissy, and Mark Jeffery before a live audience.
The performance of The Broadside of a Yarn continues. Each gifting,
each unfolding, each QR code scanned, each computer-generated narrative dialogue
read aloud, each collective utterance prompted by this broadside constitutes an event.
The Broadside of a Yarn may perhaps be best described as an assemblage --
a collection of stories, a folio of broadsides, a prompt, a poly-vocal performance script,
an unbound atlas of impossible maps, a network of interrelated narrative elements mediated
across a continuum forms. As is the way with assemblages, this work remains fluid and is
by no means finished.
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
Silvia Stoyanova and Ben Johnston
The Zibaldone Hypertext Research Platform
__Nick Montfort and Stephanie Strickland
Sea and Spar Between