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VITRINE: Machine Made Wisdom

Machine Made Wisdom by Max Lupo

02 May – 30 June

“No good deed goes unpunished”

“Time will tell”

“Just be yourself”

“What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger”

“Better late than never”

These types of overly generic platitudes are often used as a way to quell emotional unease, while avoiding the actual substance of that unease. As a whole these platitudes offer the false impression of wisdom, and are packaged as obviously “true” statements that evade further inspection. These statements are completely inadequate to address the dread or discomfort they are deployed to quell. New language that more accurately speaks to the sources of pain or disappointment should exist.

In an attempt to develop new phrases, Lupo’s Machine Made Wisdom analyzes corpuses of existing text to generate new insight. Using a database of existing platitudes, and merging it with bodies of work by different historical authors (Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Gertrude Stein, and more), an attempt is made to merge the authors’ insights with the discursive style of the platitude. Some of the resulting quotes include:

“What you want is sometimes broken”

“Every choice comes with bitter agony”

“Giving up doesn’t always mean you are able to benefit from the mistakes of others”

“Pain is a collective product”

These were generated by a computer program which digests the platitudes and literature, then builds a model of the words used in the text. A sentence is then created through a semi-random process where the next word is generated on the probability of it occurring after the current word. This process is called Markov chaining, and the implementation used here is the Markovify library, developed at BuzzFeed.

Machine Made Wisdom reshuffles familiar texts and prompts the viewer to decipher new meaning from old idioms. Throughout the months of May and June, Trinity Square Video’s vitrine space will be occupied by these computer generated statements which Lupo has machine plotted onto large isometric grid sheets. During the course of two months, different statements will appear, offering new insights every week.

Max Lupo is an interdisciplinary artist who creates interactive and playful gadgets in order to explore the process of generating memory and meaning. He often repurposes old technology in a humorous and ironic way — ultimately inciting feelings of nostalgia and novelty to subvert the viewer’s expectations of an object or experience.