Poetry Machine 2001 / 2019
David Link

"Writing the History of the Future", Center for Art and Media ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany
23 February 2019–09 January 2022 Exhibition website

"Uncanny Values. Artificial Intelligence & You", Vienna Biennale 2019, Museum of Applied Arts MAK, Vienna, Austria
29 May–06 October 2019 Exhibition website

"Parallel Worlds. Art, Science and Fiction", Kunstmuseum Celle, Celle, Germany
27 September 2020–28. February 2021

Impressions from the show

Project Description

The visitor enters a dimly lit room. On a projection screen runs a text that is written by nobody. The keys of the keyboard move as if by a ghost's hand. A monotone, mechanical voice reads out the generated text, sentence by sentence.

Without the public nearby, the system writes quickly and fluently. Thunderstorm of letters. Incessantly, one word follows the other. When visitors approach, the text generator staggers, hesitates, at times grows completely silent. The system leaves the scene to the observer and invites him to strike the keys himself. If he enters text, it appears on the screen like the machine's. Poetry Machine takes up his input and associates starting with his words. The flow of texts in the interplay between human and machine doesn't cease.

If the user's input contains words that are still unknown to Poetry Machine, the program sends autonomous "bots" into the internet to get appropriate information. They evaluate the material found and feed the resulting data back into the system. The search process of the "bots" can be followed on a second screen. Visited sites, their valuation and the documents found are shown.

Poetry Machine is a text generator based on semantic networks. The generation of the texts doesn't take place by statically scripted answering modules. What it expresses is therefore also new to its author. When the machine starts, its database is empty. Poetry Machine begins as tabula rasa. The software transforms texts into networks of semantic relationships on one hand, on the other into syntactical frames. Neural shots through these networks and their transmission through semantic relationships that are especially strong create an associative material that generates sentences about an actual topic when inserted into the syntactical frames.

Project info: Poetry Machine. An installation by David Link. 2001 / 2019.
Technical support: Stefan Doepner, Lars Vaupel (f18), Robert O’Kane.
Produced by: ZKM, Karlsruhe; Neue Galerie, Graz; Kunststiftung NRW.