POEMPORTRAITS: an interactive artwork combining poetry + design + AI


[MUSIC PLAYING] HANS-ULRICH OBRIST:
Let’s ask a question. Es Devlin. GOOGLE HOME: According
to Wikipedia, Esmeralda Devlin is a
London-based artist and stage designer who works
in a range of media. ES DEVLIN:
POEMPORTRAITS invites everyone to contribute to donate a
word to a collective poem. SPEAKER 1: Chaos. SPEAKER 2: Unequal. SPEAKER 3: Complex. SPEAKER 4: Ascending. ES DEVLIN:
The poem is generated by means of an
algorithm that’s trained on 20 million words of
19th century poetry. So each word that
you add to it will combine with words that
have been added by others and with the words
of those who were writing a few centuries ago. SPEAKER 5: “Recollections of the
binding sky, art thou alone.” ES DEVLIN
(VOICEOVER): AI is basically another part of the team. It’s another thing we’re
collaborating with. ES DEVLIN: I work closely
with Google Arts & Culture and with their creative
technologist, Ross Goodwin. ROSS GOODWIN: The algorithm
is pretty simple to explain, actually. It’s a machine that has learned
its own algorithm for writing. It learned what
words are by looking at the patterns of characters
over and over again until it could predict the statistical
probabilities that a word would occur. ES DEVLIN: In 2016, I
was at the Serpentine Galleries and I was invited to
talk with Hans-Ulrich Obrist about something we could
do for their Serpentine gala. HANS-ULRICH OBRIST:
Everybody who came actually was
invited to donate a word and then got actually
an image back. ES DEVLIN: We
talked for a long time about how could we
get it online so that everybody could take part. SPEAKER 2: “Unequally
descending at the full cloud, the freshness of the tide.” That’s kind of got, like,
a 1970s hippie kind of vibe going, I feel. Quite psychedelic. ES DEVLIN: It’s
almost like fortune cookies. You try with one word
and you get one poem. And then you want to
roll the dice again. HANS-ULRICH OBRIST: In
the last conversation that we had with
Zaha Hadid, she said, “there should be no
end to experimentation”. And that is a wonderful
motto we think of every day and it’s also a wonderful motto
actually for POEMPORTRAITS. ES DEVLIN:
Have a play with it. Because what you’ll
find is that it’s in your interaction with
this algorithm that the fun– and actually the poetry– starts to happen. [MUSIC PLAYING]

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