‘The best thing I can do is get out of bed every year.’ This remark was dreamt up not by an ironic joker, but by GPT-2, a text generator based on AI and fed with 60,000 famous and appealing quotes. The system scrambled and processed these itself, discovered patterns in them, and thus generated new material.
This recent work by the German AI artist Mario Klingemann – exhibited in Madrid (which is in lockdown at the time of writing because of the coronavirus) – takes the form of all-new, generated phrases on an analogue letterboard of the type once used in railway stations and airports. Kneel on the kneeler in front of it, and you’ll see a sentence appear.
‘The visitor usually experiences this as a personal message,' Klingemann explains when we speak to him via Skype. ‘They give the sentence meaning: that's exactly what I care about'. The work, named Appropriate Response, is Klingemann's reply to the attention economy, in which people, sometimes rather hysterically, attach meaning to posts on Twitter or other online platforms.