Using the Google Maps application programming interface, in absentia addresses issues of gentrification, community, and property in its commentary on the neoliberal reorganization of the city of Montreal and specifically the Mile End neighborhood. Part fiction, part memoir, the multi-lingual, multi-author texts "haunt" the neighborhood with stories of real and fictional tenants who have been affected by its structural transformation. The geocoding of these stories serves as a powerful reminder of the imbrications between lived and physical space.
in absentia appropriates the now ubiquitous format of Google maps—using both the mapping and “street view” features—to examine the ways that Montreal’s Mile-end neighbourhood has experienced a gentrification that limits and inhibits emotional and feminized means of moving throughout and living within this area of the city. By using bilingual French and English writing and a relatively limited set of instructions, Carpenter recreates feelings of limitation and isolation within the city. The subheadings that alter the map—“à louer,” “à vendre,” “perdu,” “trouvé,” and “vide”—tell the story of place that formerly was home to young families, artists, animals, and relationships burgeoning with passion and health. As these buildings are sold and rent prices skyrocket, in absentia works to record what is lost when businesses and corporations usurp the city.
Through its interactive nature, in absentia places the reader/player immersed in the streets, following graphic “détour” and the shadows of former pets as they clutter the map and dislocate former residents. In this way, in absentia is an extremely affective text where residents of other Canadian cities cannot help but feel their lives and experiences echoed in the text bubbles that emerge. The reading process here echoes the communal nature of in absentia’s production, wherein, as the site’s somewhat ironically-named “home” page states: “in absentia launched on June 24, 2008, with a dance party in the parc sans nom, between Saint-Laurent and Clark, under the Van Horne viaduct. New stories were added over the summer, in English and French.”