I had an interesting experience recently while working on a sculpture. The piece includes a reading of Raoul Eshelman's essay "Performatism, or the End of Postmodernism," (much discussed in this essay) done with Apple's built-in text-to-speech software. The program assigns certain values to the pause given for a period, a comma, or or a line break. Weird changes in pitch occur for double quotes and parenthesis. It also has a hard time with unusual words, proper names, and words ending in "ism" or "tion." To coax the performance I wanted from the program I had to rewrite the entire essay phrase by phrase, sometimes word by word, changing the spelling until the pronunciation approximated the real word as spoken. Here's an example from the original text, followed by the altered version. Those of you with Macs can have Bruce (System Preferences/Speech/System Voice/Bruce) read the two versions to get an idea what I was working from:
Representation therefore always gives rise to resentment, which continually threatens to expand into violence; only the renewed employment of the sign can once more defer this threat. Gans--quite consciously--ontologizes and sacralizes Derridian différance. Semiosis is ironic deferral, but this deferral serves not the play of traces and linguistic paradoxes, but rather a "holy" goal, namely the preservation of the subject in the semiotic collective. The ostensive sign always contains an element of paradox, since the sign pretends to be something that it cannot be (a usable thing).
Representation therefore always gives rise to resentment, which continually threatens to expand into violence; only-the renewed employment of the sign, can once more defer this threat. Gans--quite consciously—awntoluhzhize’s and sacruhlizes Derridian différawnce. Semeeosis is ironic deferral, but this defurral serves not the play of traces-and linguistic paradoxes, but rather a hholey goal, namely the preservation of the subject in the semiotic collective. The ostensive sign always contains an element of paradox, since the sign pretends-too-be something-that it cannot bee; (a usable-thing!).
The entire process of trying to persuade something closer to a human performance out of a piece of software was strange. Kind of a Turing test turned inside out, almost as though I were the CPU in a Chinese Room. It also took a long time. The playtime for the MP3 is about an hour, and the rewriting process often took five to twenty minutes per sentence.
Performatist Piece with Embedded Text, and it consists of a plastic pot, speakers, an MP3 player, and raw cotton (in which the "text" is embedded). It's so light and insubstantial that it hardly feels like a sculpture, which I like. In fact, it only takes about two seconds to turn it into not-a-sculpture, i.e. dumping everything out of the pot.