Oana Avasilichioaei

Folding Borders: Experimenting in the Canadian Laboratory

Transfolding the in/between

If being transient, does it follow that the self of sien should breach bone?

If we transistor, does it follow that our tran and tor should be brothers, be sisters?

If to transcribe intends the scribe, does the train plunge off the page’s margins?

If s/he transpires, does the cause stem from a conflagration, a pyre, and so a sublimation?

If we transmit, does it follow that the you and the i meet in a we?

Does transpose actually posit anything?

How do we keep this page, this site, which is so transient, transposed and transitory, honest?

 The Folding Borders commentaries attempted entrances into some of Canada’s poetic laboratories and, tempted by their hybrid languages, to traverse some of their experiments. Of course, many laboratories still remain unopened, many experiments still to be explored. A partial, random and certainly not exclusive list of further folds or essais might include The Institute for Domestic Research (Jacqueline Leggatt, Christine Stewart, Catriona Strang), the folk research of Phil Hall, the lingual bodies of Adeena Karasick,  the archival delves of Kate Eichhorn, the dist/epics silver car sessions of Jake Kennedy and kevin mcpherson eckhoff, the performative inscriptions of Michael V. Smith, the sounding of Geneviève Letarte, the urbanism of Jeff Derksen, the interdisciplinary experiments of Chantal Neveu, the poetic medias of Jolanta Lapiak, the collaborative and visual work of Gary Barwin.

In archiving a present, in struggling pages into publicness, in protagonising our multiplicities, in socialing the labour of our languages, might we become new geographers of our own imagination? Not to progress but to egress our digressions. Slick necessity of lexical pavements. Voweled vocables perform, vacating yet voracious. Prepositions commit the oblige of speaking riffs, of riffing speech. What will margins riff for us? What resolutions will we chew? What dialogues will we tenor? Questions resist resolve. 

The moan of 'Zong!'

                                              song long                                            ago a tale was

told with no                                                begin or end where

                        s the port and what

                                                            my part come

(from Zong!, M. NourbeSe Philip)

In that tenuous suspension between what is about to be silent and what is about to be spoken M. NourbeSe Philip intonates, makes utterances, working in and out of this impossible suspension: “…only if language bears witness to something to which it is impossible to bear witness, can a speaking being experience something like a necessity to speak.” (G. Agamben)

The song that is Zong! cannot be written about or described; it must be experienced. Because it sings for those who cannot speak, but must speak. Because Philip wades, swims, dives into the language of a law document and turns it oceanic, turbulent, makes the rock of law into the aquifer of moan.

Viral endeavour: A transcription

Christian Bök: I would like to be a mad scientist in my basement designing a new brand of nerve gas that I could just spring on the population. And I am doing it through this kind of viral thing called language.

Scientist: None but those who have experienced them can conceive of the enticements of science. In other studies you go as far as others have gone before you, but in a scientific pursuit there is continual food for discovery and wonder.

The Xenotext: the translation of a poem into a specific gene sequence, which then gets inserted into the Deinococcus radiodurans bacterium; the bacterium responds by producing a viable protein, writes a poem in a fluorescent response.


Rita Wong’s work is a complex endeavour to understand the ecology of the animals of language, not to settle their moving limbs and establish control, but rather to be animal with their living existence and breathe with their breaths. Living on Coast Salish land (also known as Vancouver), her work gestures, dares to understand the culture and challenges of the land, strives to be citizen, responsive and responsible. 


Renée Gagnon mounts language, which is sound and image, mounts image, which is language, mounts sound, which is image, into a complex montage. In compositing the fragmentary, the voicing of her texts becomes cinematic, the music of her visual bearings, a long and undulating collage.

Gagnon’s texts are elastic, pulling and releasing; puncturing, punctuated and textural. Her performative repetition is melodic, denying sameness while moulding a scape, a sounding of mounting montage, maintained and sustained, mountaining and unmounted, texted fragmented rep.

Some of her projects implicate popular icons, such as Steve McQueen and Mister T, verbing their actions, creating an active langage that investigates the making of their iconicity. Her Symphonie des carabines, composed and improvised in five parts from samples of westerns featuring Steve McQueen, is a complex melodic opus played by the galloping of hooves, neighing, gun fire, bar conversations. Here we are urged into the violent seductive “west”, into our fall for its imagined promise, our fascination with our own fierce draw.