Machine-assisted Poetry – the evolution of an imperfect cybernetic experiment

Want to give the biggest shout out to POETRY SYDNEY, in particular, Angela Stretch who Makes Things Happen; Sydney Streets and Fayroze Lutta of the (@urbaniste) for sponsoring the work.


Part I

If Duchamp taught us anything its that if its in a gallery it must be art. The context determines what it is – not the content!

It was in this light that I wanted to operate my machine outside the gallery system – on the streets of Sydney so that it/I might become some/thing/body else.

my! machine. The Evolver. Keeps evolving. At its core it resembles a drawing machine.. but it’s also a self-portrait. The best one I ever made.. a mechanical model of me.. it has a regular repeatable core (like my breathing and my heart beat).. but at its eccentrically engineered peripherally it appears chaotic.. like me.. hands flailing about and words tumbling out (of me)… in sometimes seemingly random fashion – so I’m told!

If it is me. Then to test me.. I should put me in the world.. See how I work. I get to stand beside me – Be The scientist (Sid Sledge); measure me. Get a handle on this Thing called love.

crowds interacting with The Evolver

The Evolver till this point interacted subtly with its environment. But Sid recognised that in his life the environment has a lot of impact on his own evolution. The Evolver was therefore modified to incorporate greater environmental impact. See schematic below:

Schematic diagram showing introduction of second irregular pendulum and the introduction of potential novel feedback

Here the Core [A] with its regular behaviour drives the [B] irregular pendulum… its recording were captured in drawings (f). Now [D] the Environment has been introduced – the environment in the form of a person, which drives the irregular pendulum [C] (recordings captured in (e).. BUT because of the linker between [B] and [C], which can associate and dissociate at different positions on the linker – depending on the motion in the system (and therefore randomly link and unlink the environment from The Evolver) – the environment can influence the behaviour of [B] and because of the looseness of the core [A], its behaviour.. although limited because of its limited range of motion.. can to a lesser extent.. be affected.

Energy (motion) of an ordered type is input in two places [A] and [D] and flows both ways making a ‘strange’ loop of sorts – an imperfect cybernetic system.. responding to the world.. like me..

energy flow of this imperfect cybernetic system.

Part II

“Where I wanted to draw a bird but it decided to draw a tree”

I decided to test this idea in a more formal setting [see video]. Where I would attempt to draw something (i.e. be the input [D]).. where I will exhibit non-linear control over the irregular pendulum [C]. [A] in its more ordered state will be driving irregular pendulum [B]. [B] and [C] through variable snagging will close the loop so to speak.

I started off decisively trying to draw a bird. At some point that idea bifurcated into a tree. Did the decision to draw the tree.. can I say that it was me that decided to draw the tree.. or was it the often frustrating impact of the machine.. the snagging that made me pivot to a tree.

Is all of decision making then systemically determined in this way? The environmental condition in conflict with the rational determination.

On the left; the core [A] drawing / recording; middle, the tree from the interaction of [D] and [C] and 3rd panel.. the chaotic drawing described by [B].
And from a second experiment.. done before I had to pack up the evolver.. I was determined to try and draw the bird again.. This time – in that process of back and forth tussle between the seed of an imagining and the lines starting to populate the paper – a black cockatoo seemed to want to emerge.. once I sensed him.. I tried to develop him.. all the while the irregular pendulum of the machine which was periodically snagging into my draw noticed my foray into the 5th day of creation.. the co-emergence of the fish and bird, strived to develop the fish motif.. my subconscious influence having a hand? is the question I don’t want to ask.. but feel I must

left panel: core drawing showing signs of being tussled with by the ‘strange loop’ of interaction; middle panel: a description of a black cockatoo – in flight; 3rd panel the machine – seemingly tugging at my subconscious through the mechanism of the snag, generating – the fish
detail of the fish and bird energy


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