Automated Poetry Machine
Alan Brown, 2014
With words by Michael Pedersen
Similar to the cut-up technique used by Dadaists in the 1920s, the Automated Poetry Machine creates new texts by cutting up and rearranging a poem.
The viewer is instructed (via an LCD screen and pre-recorded voice messages) to swipe their bank card and select one number on a rotary dial. The Automated Poetry Machine reads data from the magnetic stripe on the card, and in combination with the chosen number, selects a sequence of numbers. These numbers are used to arrange a bank of pre-defined words to create a tailored ‘cut-up’ poem. The final poem is printed on a roll of receipt paper. During printing a short melody is played – the notes and rhythm generated from the bank card numbers.
This piece explores the interplay between commerce and culture by playfully using an automated system to ‘produce’ customised poems. It also invokes concerns around crime and identity theft by inviting the viewer to trust the machine with their data.