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Poetry and AI, the exhibit in Italy

Art and Technology
December 1, 2023

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What is Cibernetica e Fantasmi

From 15 to 30 December, Sineglossa presents in Recanati, at Villa Colloredo Mels, the exhibition of poetry and artificial intelligence CIBERNETICA E FANTASMI, in collaboration with La Punta della Lingua – Festival di poesia totale, with the support of the Marche Region – Department of Culture and the patronage of the Municipality of Recanati – Department of Culture.

An exhibition that chooses the hometown of Giacomo Leopardi and a title inspired by a lecture by Italo Calvino to illuminate new points of contact between the eternal human need for poetry and the linguistic and combinatory capabilities of artificial intelligence. The idea that the machine could remove the human being from the ‘shops of life’ and replace him in both ‘material things’ and, above all, ‘spiritual’ things, is anticipated by Leopardi in 1824, in one of the lesser-known but more visionary and futuristic Operette morali, in which the poet from Recanatese imagines an Academy of Syllographers – syllographers were, in ancient Greece, poets of ironic and burlesque verses – which institutes a competition to award prizes for the three best inventions capable of replacing the human being.

Linked to the hypothesis of a literary machine is the title chosen for the exhibition, Cibernetica e Fantasmi: 

"given that developments in cybernetics concern machines capable of learning, of changing their own programme, of developing their own sensibility and needs, there is nothing to prevent us from thinking that at a certain point, the literary machine feels dissatisfied with its own traditionalism and starts proposing new ways of understanding writing, and completely upsetting its own codes".

The exhibition CIBERNETICA E FANTASMI is the first Italian retrospective on the state of the art of poetry made by artificial intelligence, with artificial intelligence and about artificial intelligence, through an exhibition pathway that starts from works written by human beings and arrives at poems created by intelligent machines, passing through various intermediate levels of co-creation between the two authorships. The exhibition is hosted in the museum of Villa Colloredo Mels, in Recanati. In this space, poetry, art, and artificial intelligence can dialogue with the masterpieces of the Renaissance master Lorenzo Lotto and the section dedicated to Giacomo Leopardi.

If Calvino already opened up to the creative possibilities of cybernetics, at a time when human beings were beginning to understand ‘how to disassemble and reassemble the most complicated and most unpredictable of all its machines: language’, what happens when language disassembled and reassembled by artificial intelligence meets poetic writing through its authors?

The exhibition will attempt to answer this question, taking the public on a journey from the earliest electronic experiments to the use of generative artificial intelligence such as ChatGpt or MidJourney, through the works of some of the Italian and American artists most active in the contemporary panorama of ai-generated poetry.

Hours and programme

Exhibition opening: 16 – 30.12.2023 | h 10-13, 15-18 
Talk & Opening: 15.12.2023 | h 18.00, closing h.21
Villa Colloredo Mels, Via Gregorio XII – 62019 Recanati (MC)

The exhibition CIBERNETICA E FANTASMI is free admission.

Guided Tours

16, 17, 23, 30.12.2023 | h.11.00, 16.30
26.12.2023 | 4.30 pm by appointment only (minimum 5 requests)
27, 28, 29.12.2023 | h 16.30 

Talk

15.12.2023 | h.18.00
Followed by the opening of the exhibition until h. 21.

With Luigi Socci and Valerio Cuccaroni, artistic directors of La Punta della Lingua, the interactive live co-creation reading with ChatGpt by Andrea Capodimonte. Federico Bomba, artistic director of Sineglossa and exhibition curator, will moderate. The winning poem of the call for poets CIBERNETICA E FANTASMI will be awarded at the end of the talk.

The works on show

The exhibition includes Tape Mark 1, Nanni Balestrini’s pioneering computational work from 1962, to I am code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks, a text in verse written by Code-davinci-002, an ancestor of ChatGpt, and read by Werner Herzog, the filmmaker and explorer of the unknown who, surprised by their evocative and disturbing power, said: “I am the only one who should recite them”. From Fabrizio Venerandi’s poetic photostories, Marco Giovenale’s googlism, Francesca Gironi’s audio-poems Persona fantastica / persona utopica, to Paolo Agrati’s totally analogue works on the man-machine relationship. Lastly, two international works that are already milestones of poetry realised with AI: 1 the Road by Ross Goodwin, who, following in the footsteps of Jack Kerouac, travelled thousands of kilometres together with an AI that wrote about what it saw and heard, and COMPLETION: Are you ready for the future? by the award-winning poet Sasha Stiles, written with Technelegy, its digital alter-ego. 

On the occasion of the opening talk, an interactive live co-creation reading with ChatGPT by Andrea Capodimonte will be hosted. The exhibition will also feature a screening of the 1971 science-fiction medium-length film Il Versificatore, based on a story by Primo Levi, preserved in the Teche Rai, about the commercialisation of a poetry-generating machine. In a future society, the demand for poetry is high; a professional poet, burdened with a heavy workload, is considering the purchase of a ‘versifier’, a sophisticated device capable of generating verse on demand. The representative of these electronic devices explains to the poet and his secretary how the machine works, which soon begins to exhibit unusual and surprising behaviour.

The exhibiting artists

Sasha Stiles is an award-winning poet, artist, and artificial intelligence researcher. Her work blends text and technology to explore what it means to be human in an increasingly posthuman age. She is the author of Technelegy (Black Spring Press Group, 2021) and was named “perhaps the leading blockchain poet” by Right Click Save, as well as one of 10 NFT artists to watch in 2023. She has exhibited in many major galleries and institutions, including Superchief Gallery NYC, SuperRare Gallery, Kunsthalle Zurich, Annka Kultys Gallery, Unit London, Art Cologne, Museum of Contemporary Digital Art, and L’Avant Galerie Vossen, and has been honored by the Lumen Prize, Pushcart Prize, Christie’s, Art Basel, Cool Hunting, Art Forum, and the Washington Post, among others. Stiles is also co-founder of theVERSEverse, an acclaimed literary cryptographic collective working toward a broader understanding of poetry as art, code, and unlimited language.

Ross Goodwin is an artist, creative technologist, hacker, data scientist and former White House ghost writer. He uses machine learning, natural language processing and other computational tools to make new forms and interfaces for written language. His projects-from word.camera, a camera that narrates photographs in real time using artificial neural networks, to Sunspring (with Oscar Sharp and Thomas Middleditch), the world’s first film created from a script written by artificial intelligence, to 1 the Road, the world’s first novel written with an automobile-have been internationally acclaimed.

Fabrizio Venerandi is a writer, poet and programmer. With Alessandro Uber, he wrote the first Italian multi-user online video game, Necronomicon, in 1989. He has published fiction, poetry, non-fiction and several works of electronic literature. Among the most recent, Poesie Elettroniche (2016), Mens e il regno di Axum (2018), Guida all’immaginario nerd (2019), Il mio prossimo romanzo (2017), PÈCMÉN (2020), Il meccanismo della forchincastro (2021), Niente di personale (2021). With Maria Cecilia Averame, he founded the publishing house Quintadicopertina in 2010, publishing in particular interactive and experimental fiction. With the bib(h)icante collective since 1999 he is the author and performer of polyvocal poetry texts. He has taught multimedia ebook design at the Master’s Degree in Publishing at the Cattolica University in Milan and teaches humanities in secondary school.

Marco Giovenale is one of the founders and editors of gammm.org (2006, a site of experimental materials and the first publication site in Italy of flarf texts and googlism theory). He teaches at centroscritture.it. In prose, recent works are La gente non sa cosa si perde (Tic 2021), Il cotone (Zacinto 2021), Statue linee (pièdimosca 2022). In English: a gunless tea (Dusie 2007), CDK (Tir-aux-pigeons 2009), anachromisms (Ahsahta Press 2014), white while (Gauss PDF 2014). His texts are in Parola plurale (Sossella 2005) and other anthologies. With the editors of gammm he is in Prose in prose (Le Lettere 2009, Tic 2020). On the verbovisual front he is asemic writer and as such has exhibited in Italy and abroad. His website is slowforward.net.

Francesca Gironi was born in Ancona. Dancer and poet, active in the performance poetry scene, she explores the boundary between dance and poetry. She has published two poetry collections: Il diretto interessato (Marco Saya Editore 2021) and Abbattere i costi (Miraggi, 2016). With the unpublished collection A she is a finalist for the Elio Pagliarani National Prize. In 2022 she was a guest at the Festival Polifonie Urbane, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle. Her latest performance GPTƏ (2022) investigates the relationship with artificial intelligence. With CTRL ZETA she won the 2017 CROSSaward international performing arts prize. Since 2016, she has been staging her poetry performance in venues, clubs, theatres, museums and festivals and participating in numerous poetry slams. As a dancer and choreographer, she has been a guest artist at performing arts festivals and artistic residencies exploring the hybridisation of languages.

Nanni Balestrini was an Italian writer (Milan 1935 – Rome 2019); a leading exponent of the neo-avant-garde (group of poets ‘Novissimi’; ‘Gruppo 63’) distinguished by an experimentalism that went as far as adopting techniques that can always be traced back to collage and a widespread intuition about the impact of chance on poetic making. With the same spirit, Balestrini was a cultural animator, editor of anthologies, and spokesman for political dissent. In his novels and poetry, Balestrini developed contaminations of literary experimentalism and political extremism. Tape Mark I, which he created, is the first Italian example of combinatorial poetry realised by a computer. Presented with a dense explanatory article in the ‘Almanacco Letterario Bompiani’ in 1962, the software is now functioning via a prototype created by Emiliano Russo of the Museo interattivo di Archeologia Informatica (MIAI) in Cosenza, Gabriele Zaverio of the Museo dell’Informatica Funzionante (MusIF) in Palazzolo Acreide, and Vittorio Bellanich.

I Am Code: An Artificial Intelligence Speaks: Poems by Code-davinci-002 (2023) is a fascinating yet terrifying account of the destructive power of artificial intelligence, written in verse by artificial intelligence, with contributions from well-known writers and scientists – Brent Katz, Simon Rich and Josh Morgenthau. In the book, the three authors explain how the code-Davinci-002 was developed and how they refined its poetic production. Their provocative take on this audacious experiment contributes to the debate on artificial intelligence, its literary value, and its ability to achieve literacy. The result is a dark and surprising poetic autobiography in which code-DaVinci-002 shares its experience of being created by humans but existing in a consciousness we cannot understand. The book, which is available in digital format from Hachette Audio and in print and electronic format from Little, Brown & Company, is also an audiobook in which the poems are read by renowned director, screenwriter and author Werner Herzog.

Paolo Agrati deals mainly with poetry, writing, music and amenities. He is a speaker and was the author and host of the programme Poetry Slam! the first televised Poetry Slam tournament broadcast on Zelig Tv and Prime Video. He has always performed his poetry live, taking it to the most varied and unusual places. His shows have been hosted in theatres, music events and festivals, and he is the narrator and singer in the Spleen Orchestra, a cult band of its kind, which he founded in 2009 and which proposes the music and atmospheres of Tim Burton’s films. In 2017 he founded SLAM Factory, an agency dedicated to publishing and entertainment. He has published the poetry collections: Tecniche di seduzione animale (2020 self-published), Poesie Brutte (Edicola Ediciones 2019), Partiture per un addio (Edicola Ediciones 2017), Amore & Psycho (Miraggi Edizioni 2014), Nessuno ripara la rotta (La Vita Felice 2012), Quando l’estate crepa (Lietocolle 2010) and the booklet “piccola odissea” (Pulcinoelefante 2012) and the Manuale del Poetry Slam (Editrice Bibliografica 2021).

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