The MIDI controlled solenoid array mounted on the typewriter.
The chicken random MIDI generator in action.
Sample typewriter output.
The Think Tank is an art installation created by kinetic sculptor Trimpin and programmer Seb Chevrel which prints random President Bush speeches on a typewriter.
The Think Tank consists of a system of 24 bobbing chicken toys that trigger random pulses in the form of MIDI signals. These signals are routed to solenoid plungers attached to the keys of an IBM Selectric typewriter. Custom software translates these signals into readable output from the typewriter.
To achieve this, every word from all of President George W. Bush's public radio addresses has been entered into a database. This source text is analyzed and the spatial relationships between individual words are referenced, producing a simplistic, yet highly effective "grammar" that will govern the typewriter's output.
The initial chicken signal will cause the software to choose one random word from the source text. At the next signal, the software will choose another random word, but one that appeared adjacent to the previous word in the source text. The process repeats, creating convincing, readable text most of the time, and completely frightening outbursts occasionally.
Trimpin, composer, kinetic sculptor. Chicken random generator and typewriter MIDI devices design and fabrication.
Seb Chevrel, programmer. Text analysis and generation software.
CoCA, Seattle, Help Wanted: Collaborations in Art(Mar-Apr 2005)
Text generation is identical to the real project, except computer random numbers are used instead of the chicken, as the source of entropy.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this project is working with a real physical entropy source (the chicken) instead of pseudo-random number generators traditionally used in computer science. An unexpected consequence of this is that the chicken's "agenda" seems to change depending on the environment they are placed in. In Trimpin's warmer studio, the speeches focused mostly on the war in irak and foreign affairs, while the colder concrete environment at CoCA produced more text centered on domestic affairs.
The method of text analysis used in this project is applicable to any source text in any language. Because the method of text generation reproduces statistical patterns found in the original, it always creates convincing results no matter what the input. Many other investigations are possible from here with this software.
Source Text [1.2MB] (consolidated and cleaned file of all President Bush radio addresses available at www.whitehouse.gov)