Remembering Randy Adams

May 25, 2014 in ELO

runran

The Electronic Literature Organization wishes to commemorate the life of Canadian e-lit artist and writer Randy Adams (aka runran) who passed away on April 25, 2014. To best honor his life and work, we have asked two of his closest collaborators and friends, Chris Joseph and Christine Wilks to write brief statements about him. We conclude with an autobiographical statement from Randy Adams recently published in his Facebook account. See also, Sue Thomas’ statement.

Statement by Chris Joseph

I first met Randy in 2004 at the trAce Incubation Conference, and was immediately struck by his warmth and sincerity, and this impression did not diminish over the ten years that I knew him. As with many in the field of electronic art and literature he was an autodidact, and perhaps this contributed to his constant interest in experimenting with new ways of working and collaborating with others in the field.

His online artistic output was prodigious, spanning poetry, spoken word, sound, prose, essays, illustration and animation, often released via his website (http://runran.net), but he was also incredibly generous with his time as an organiser and participant in conferences, performances and collaborative spaces such as R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (Remixworx), a space that he created and hosted that brought together many artists who still meet virtually to freely remix each other’s work. I will miss most his smile and twinkling eyes as he talked about how to realise a new piece of work, and the happiness he exuded about his life with JoAnn spent travelling and creating art.

Chris Joseph, May 2014

run the [creative] program randy

That’s how Randy Adams, aka runran, unpacked his digital pen name in the comments under one of R3/\/\1X\/\/0RX’ earliest blog posts, scream to be remixed, December 2006. I will always be thankful that runran founded remixworx, an ongoing collaborative space for remixing digital media, not least because, as long as it remains online, we will always be able to run the [creative] program randy. His spritely spirit – and spirited sprite – runs throughout, inspiring, spawning, mixing, melding, provoking, entertaining, mutating… Let the tags lead you on a merry dance. For instance, of the many characters shedding digital debris, perhaps ponder the codeman or cyborg or, if you peer into the shadow moment and look inside, you might sense runran in imaginary places. Explore.

Randy Adams initiated and enabled so much online creativity, literally hundreds of remixes, and earlier collaborative projects too that predate social media, like the enchanting Imaginary Post Office where he was postmaster. From our first virtual meeting at the trAce Online Writing Centre to our last virtually hands-on collaboration, A Revolution of Words, I will treasure my association with runran and all the cross-pollinations he inspired.

crissxross (aka Christine Wilks), May 2014 (read her online tribute)

Autobiographical Statement (published on Facebook)

I was born in Edmonton, a Canadian city of moderate size, located at 53° 34′ N / 113° 31′ W: parkland mostly, laying between plains and tundra. My maternal great-great grandfather was an Orkney man,William Lennie, a blacksmith at Fort Edmonton. In 1869 he married Annabella Fraser, a Métis daughter of Colin Fraser, bagpiper for HBC governor George Simpson. William and Annabella had a son named Colin Lennie who married Clara Grant, daughter of a notorious fur trader named Johnny Grant and his Métis wife Lily. My grandmother Pearl was born, daughter of Colin and Clara, a mere 15 years after the ‘rebellion’ at Batoche. She married a man much older than her, an English railroad foreman named Fred Smith. It wasn’t long before Pearl Smith refused to talk about her Métis heritage. By the time I was born, it was a deep family secret – though when Pearl put her hair down she looked decidedly native. Serendipitously, my partner JoAnn is 1/2 Cree. We live together like the fur traders and mixed-blood women of so long ago – “a la facon du pays”(according to the custom of the country).

My father’s ancestors came from a small village named Sangar, in what is now northern Iraq. They were Nestorian Christians who emigrated to the prairie settlement of North Battleford,Saskatchewan, in the early 1900’s. I am prototypically Canadian and curiously proud of my mixed blood.

I can’t remember any single event that got me travelling, but by the time I was nineteen I was on the road. During the decade when many of my friends were in university, learning one trade or another, or establishing businesses, I was rambling from landscape to landscape, never settling anywhere for long. I wandered up and down the spine of North America, working in the orchards of British Columbia, on farms and ranches in Alberta, and a gemstone mine in the Mojave Desert. I learned an assortment of skills. How to catch chickens in a dark barn, gathering four to a hand, their hard scaly legs like pencils stiff between your fingers, the squawking, the feathers and dust, and the stench of ammonia and fear. How to tighten barbed wire with only a claw hammer, hooking a barb into the claw and twisting the wire tight around the neck of the hammerhead. How to drill a hole and pack just the right amount of plastic explosive to blow a vein of gemstone from off the wall of an open pit. How to prune a fruit tree by imagining the spokes of a wheel. How to turn a herd of spooked cattle through a narrow opening in a fence. How to swath a field. How to urge the last breath of life from cranky old machinery. For several years, I worked variously as cabbie and a bartender. Then, for twenty years, I worked part-time in public libraries.

For several years I wrote weekly and monthly columns of arts and social commentary for Edmonton and Alberta newspapers and magazines,and feature articles for Canadian magazines (Canadian Geographic Magazine, Photo Life). My prose poems and essays have been published in various magazines and journals (The Honest Ulsterman, NeWest Review). In 1995 I wrote, directed and performed a live,multimedia and theatrical work in Edmonton – Checking the Wreckage- based on many years of photography and writing about the Canadian prairies. My photographs and mixed media works have been exhibited and collected by public galleries, foundations and archives. Over the past 35 years I have received several grants for writing and photography. In 1999 I wrote Eternal Prairie: Exploring Rural Cemeteries of the West (Calgary: Fifth House Publishers, 1999.ISBN: 1-894004-33-7).

During the past two decades, I have extended my media practice into the digital arts, exploring visual poetry and inter active narrative forms. In his book Other Voices, Essays on Modern Poetry,Octavio Paz wrote: “Another art is dawning.” He wrote of a tradition that “began with the Romantics, reached its zenith with the Symbolists, and attained a fascinating twilight with the avant-garde of the last century.” I don’t think he imagined digital writing being the new art, and I don’t think we even know i fit is a new art, or even a new way of writing. One thing is certain,the dissemination of creative writing and art on the web represents an entirely new publication model.

From 1999 – 2005 I worked as Associate Editor for the trAce Online Writing Centre, in association with the Humanities Department at the Nottingham Trent University, reviewing ‘new media writing’ and commissioning essays on digital arts and writing. I also edited Transdisciplinary Digital Art: Sound, Vision and the New Screen(Communications in Computer and Information Science (CCIS), Volume 7,Springer Berlin Heidelberg. 2008. ISBN: 978-3-540-79485-1). I have participated as an organizer and/or media artist in conferences,screenings, performances & artist’s talks at universities,colleges and art galleries in Canada and the UK. I have worked on lineas an editor, artist, writer and web designer since 1997.

Without a doubt my interest in digital aesthetics was sparked by the ability to combine the two areas of creative practice that most interested me, writing and visual art (as well as a lifelong interest in dabbling with music). I was surprised by the generosity of other writers and artists who worked with digital tools to deliver online content – people who shared ideas and code and imagery with very little concern for ownership or copyright. Collaborations were spontaneous and invigorating. I have initiated and been involved in various collaborative works, both online and in live performance,including animations and spoken word. The web has afforded me many opportunities to integrate my writing and visual skills, and to disseminate this work to an international audience. Regular statistical reports reveal a very wide interest in such work. My online work is linked to from various media art and writing sites and included in college syllabuses

The longest-standing, and ongoing, collaborative project isR3/\/\1X\/\/0RX (remixworx - http://runran.net/remix_runran/): an online space for the remixing of digital media, including visual poetry (vispo), electronic poetry (flashpo), playable media,animation, music, spoken word, texts and more. It began as a blog in November 2006 and has grown to number over 500 individual works of media. The source material is made available and all media is freely given to be remixed. In regards artistic practice, R3/\/\1X\/\/0RXis unabashedly new media – ‘born digital’ – but the project has roots in photography, literature, audio technology, film, animation,poetry, computer programming, Dada and outsider art. R3/\/\1X\/\/0RXis an accumulation of spontaneous ideas that spawn at random intervals, a flexible community, an adaptable entity that has been shown in a variety of ways – performed live at festivals and conferences, or remixed live as part of DJ/VJ events.

I have travelled widely in America, Europe and Asia and have used this time to write poetry and short essays that have accumulated over the years. Some works appear on my blog and other works remain unpublished. I am 62. I am an autodidact.

Randy Adams, April 2014

[Compiled and presented by Leonardo Fores]