David Link

Poetry Machine


Werk - Poetry Machine
Artist / Artist group
David Link
Poetry Machine
installation, computer-based
Material / Technique
interactive, net-based installation; room with projection screen, technological equipment: computer: 3 PCs, operating system: Linux, software: Icustom software with Internet access, other devices: modified keyboard on stand, custom electronics, ultrasonic distance sensor, network distributor, 1 plasma monitor, projector, amplifier, 2 passive speakers, mixer.
Dimensions / Duration
Installation dimensions variable
ZKM | Center for Art and Media

Based on a computer program which generates words and weaves them together to create a text, David Link describes his installation »Poetry Machine« as a “whirlwind of letters.“[1]

The installation consists of a computer keyboard and two video displays placed in a darkened room. The keys move as if pressed by invisible hands. The text is then projected onto the screen, and at the same time, a monotonous, mechanical voice reads out the sentences one by one.

When visitors get closer to the keyboard, sensors detect their presence, which interrupts the rhythm of the text machine. This reaction can be understood as an invitation to use the keyboard and to write. When words are keyed in, a text generator is activated. This program analyzes, sorts and filters word combinations from banks of online texts. The more often the system detects two words paired together, the stronger the connection between these words. »Poetry Machine« processes the texts of human authors and searches for associated words.

In the beginning, »Poetry Machine« has an empty database. All words are equally related. Little by little, a dictionary is built up from the input of the visitors and the word connections on the Internet, which defines the relationships words have to each other and also stores sentence structures. If unknown words are input, »bots«[2] (autonomous algorithms) are sent out to comb the World Wide Web for associations. This analysis can be followed on a second screen.

An automatically generated stream of text appears on the screen, a poetic mesh of words or »écriture automatique« which unites human thinking and computer logic.

[1] David Link, »Poetry Machine (1.0): Eine Installation von David Link,« 2001, available online at: http://www.alpha60.de/art/poetry_machine/catalogue_text_de.html.

[2] Ibid.

Author: Hannah-Maria Winters

Key topics

About the artist/s