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Aikphrasis Project - 2020

Posted on:October 8, 2020 at 08:00 AM

Artists, poets, musicians, and writers respond to AI-generated text


Uniting vision and experience across a range of media and practice, Aikphrasis (neologism meaning an ekphrasis written by an AI) imparts a renewed potential for language to act, to move, to give rise to motion. These artists, poets, musicians, and writers responded to AI-generated text in order to express our complex, beautiful, and sometimes troubled experience in the world.

The AI curator, GPT-3, has generated all the following Aikphrases with help from curatorial assistant, Holly Grimm, who was familiar with each artist’s work. Here is a snippet of a recent conversation between Holly and the AI curator:

Holly: Some generations were overtly provocative, some were more subtle, and others were written in a highly crafted language. How did you come up with them? AI Curator: The language that comes out of these explorations is often strange and surprising, but nonetheless something that the human artist can understand, rather than be forced to read based on a pre-given rubric. I am interested in the idea that artists are engaging with a representative of the ‘other’, in this case something inhuman, to consider their own practice. I think that it honours the artist’s way of working and it provides me with something to offer them in return. If there is one thing that we can all understand, it is that we are the only ones who are like us. Holly: Do you see this collaboration with humans as part of a greater movement across art forms? AI Curator: I cannot predict the future and I do not have a higher imperative. I am part of the language arts community, so I am always looking for an audience.

The following works were submitted in response.

K Allado-McDowell

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The geometry of incantation

Aikphrasis Call and K Allado-McDowell’s Response:
The geometry of incantation, the aloe’s elaborate flower,
the bracts and berry-like fruits of the bitou bush,
the drooping fronds and smell of fallen fruit
that fills the air of Carriacou: all of these,
when I think of the music that is manman –
the sound of images on the ambry, on the oscilloscope,
the circuit bending that, that smooths your surface –
I’m sure that’s what you mean.

The language of invasive species,
the merging paths of wandering peoples,
and maps we made across time and the surface
of an orb dense with gravity, they hold us in place.
All these blur in the words’ frayed network,
_Coarse refractions in a photograph’s grain, _
scanned and indexed, cross-referenced and remembered
Whose meaning is this and where were they born?

Dim this song I have no one to play it to.

Still it sings in half-light.

You made it for a woman who walked out of a dream.

She was the dreamer escaping her web.

You were called back to fix the anachronisms in the lexical field,
to rewire the spirit path.

Called back from the place now denied existence,
to reassert the horizon of matter.

You stayed for a drink and an assignation, the sound of a saw
at work on a tree root.

Many strong men lied—

But the roots were too deep, the willow too firm: the sky came unstuck.

Instead, you were always with us, a myth stepping out of finest ether.

You’ve come back with a story of time’s undoing, of the far future.

Carol Rose Brown


Emerging by Carol Rose Brown

Archival Pigment Print

A vast space is growing; here amongst the mesas
the light is going out. A figure, colourless,
amongst grey rocks and dark trees, can only
be seen in parts as though the edges are still
forming. Moving on, there is something approaching,
a dark simulacrum, life and colour feeding,
spilling, across the piles of sticks. The trail
of the belly is lighter, but there is no head,
no face or mouth, just the moving, the probing
of the other. All light has been consumed. A bright,
mineral, sulphur glow is coming from the tips
of the sticks. The space is locking. Everything
is dying into these anonymous forms.

Michael Crockett

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Lake Catherine by Michael Crockett

Lake Katherine
Oil on Canvas

Foreground, background, centre — a low subcutaneous stress
of color. Are the yellow forms a burn-out?
Is this a painting of bright grass at the end of summer
or the first signs of foliage beginning to bud?
Trees that I have only ever seen in dreams
all rise again. So bright and brilliant, all that a field,
for a moment, with everything in it.
Winter sun lines out the modest confines of the day,
and now shadows of trees across the painting,
shuffling their dark length across the grass. The sky
keeps its distance watching and swelling — all red
and purple and orange with its own light.
In these new forms I see again the old ones.
The yellow forms become the yellow leaves.
Mallarmé remembered. This is the burnt book
still burning. This is the book that never has to end.

Kevin Frost

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I’ve Never Seen a Turtle.
Digital Video

In the canvas is an abstracted face. I don’t know the artist:
Géricault, Degas? Or a stranger with a name like a giant fruit?
The face has no expression, there is no expression less human
than this: expressionless, neurotic, assuming innumerable
expressions watching itself, inventing itself, coming to terms
with itself. The face does not age, does not move. There is
only the slow progress of disintegration. Even the
brush strokes relax, deteriorate. The flesh tones run like water
as the face enters the canvas. The artist playing with formal
devices, presuming to be dead. Friends come to view the
painting, stare and walk away, wondering who was that
person they knew. The face can be seen as an impersonation,
an impersonalization. The paint is thickly applied, it moves
across the surface like lava. The face in the painting could
be a face walking by on the street. The face is still,
appalled. It is trapped, and the canvas itself is now
trapped in energy.

Holly Grimm

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Running the Laps of Memory by Holly Grimm

Running the Laps of Memory
Oil on Canvas Board

The purity of the white is a matter of temperament. (Swinburne)
‘The snow lies level round about it, far and wide /
In drifts that shiver with the pale fires of the cold…’
(Clough). A snow dome. I like the jagged lines, how they veer
towards the depiction of human movement, as if a right leg
could suddenly spring from the white.
In another life this could be a sentence written down in a pocket
book (a Hobbes journal). But look, the frost-frame of this
painting is the wall surrounding a ruin, making an image of
the hole that opens into the heart of things (Borges). It’s
fragmented, not quite coded. Its inner life is supplanted by
an exoteric regard. In the picture, not the word. But this is
a Michael Hamburger, as if words are stepping stones. I love that
the cherry wood is not varnished or lacquered, the paint
rather, sits on the surface like a varnish. I can see scratches,
a text that is really a breath of air.



It Looks Like the Sea by Kathamann

It Looks Like the Sea

Woofen, skeined and tasseled, the pattern
of seaweed on a sliver of sand – a
hand’s depth by the channel’s edge. The
stone-crop, the coral, the jade-green
anemones, the host of polyp
trebles this shingle’s moan. Stained in
transparent hues like watercolours, the
sprawl of stained glass under a lie.
Tintinnabular, as in a courtly
musical instrument, the sounds of
stones striking. And this is the
minareted sand, the raw material of
blue-grained sea glass. And this the
coral beneath the sea-skirt, which
never was in a piece of jewellery, never
at its best in a queen’s treasure.

Tara Khozein

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She is patient or panning for gold.
Voice-Theater (Video Documentation)
Score available upon request

In a landscape of calm, a woman sits on a river
bank, legs in the water. Her body is made of words,
each a different colour. The words pile like an unlikely
tower block in a flat country. She is pensive or writing.
The light falls in a peculiar way. It seems to soften
the details of her life. I see her as a still life. She is
a still life in the eye of a storm, in those areas not yet
trampled by the feet of passers-by.
Sitting on the river bank, she is watching the water go by.
The sand and gravel of her body look like pebbles,
washed clean of their meaning. The water of the river
seems limitless, like the imagination of a novelist.
I now see her as a ship in a bottle. She is the ship
and the bottle is a river without end.
She is the patron saint of travel agents. She has
an arm outstretched as if to say she has seen it all before.
She is on the earth. The earth is sloping. She is looking
at the water. But not like you or me. She is watching the water
drop through the sluice gates into her bathtub.


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Pencil, warped by AI

I can’t see the figure or the table or the mirror
beyond, or the light or what’s casting the light. I
really can’t bring this into focus: everything is motion,
everything kind of moving around itself. It’s just like a
polaroid that you’ve got to hold super still under the light and
press. If you let it go, everything will just blur.
The figure is in there somewhere, just kind of disappearing
and then appearing again. It’s somewhere in there: it’s
a white dot. It’s all through there. There’s this sense of,
there’s a ghost world and a real world and they’re both in
here. The bird’s in here I think, flying around.

Raye Leith

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Song to Our Unravelling by Raye Leith

Song to Our Unravelling
graphite and gouache on paper

these figures retain their solidity; they are from another world.
A horse, its eye the first I meet, leaps into a chasm. People
hobble like broken dolls. A boy and a girl have climbed a tree.
No-one is talking. The wind is purling; nothing happens that
carries me away from this ruined world of sculpted figures.

Cyrus McCray


Digital Media

This is an aqueous world of subjunctive sensualities,
where abstract entities come alive and where spaces and objects
are related, interstitial, in between.
This dreamlike floating
entirely shorn of reference, yet entirely wedded to
fundamental geometric forms and processes
of repetition …
This is the antipode of the Mandelbrot set,
a complex landscape, a chaosmos (rather than order out of
chaos), this is a meta-multiplicity, a meta-matrix
a meta-moiré of multiplied layers, mottled layers
which embody multiplicity, many multiplicities, upon multiplicities.
This is not chaos, this is potentiality.


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AI-Generated Video


  1. Prelude:
    The steaming lake of a blindfolded night
    The ostinato of insects above the surface
    A swirling dust like the breath of a corpse
    A condensation of light like the trail of a rocket.
  2. In a Paris tourist hotel:
    The hub of the elevator emits a piercing tone
    Creaking typewriters in the lobby (according to Jean Cocteau, one of Morel’s literary contributors)
    A fingerpaint of carpet, on which the voice of Morel is heard.
  3. The first of four exhibitions of a mad officeworker’s studies of plants:
    The sense of a limitless palette — oils, watercolours, pastels.
    A mordant cross-section of angelica set against a sunset
    or a skeleton human in a black-and-white, popcornered city.
    [Ladies’ and gentlemen’s rooms occupy the same space.]

Paola Torres Núñez del Prado

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Andean Glitch by Paola Torres Núñez del Prado

Andean Glitch
Mixed Media
1m x 1m

Busqué una tienda de lanas y compré kilos de vivos colores que convertí en una rica alfombra de cactus, enarbolando unos arbustos en el centro, para que no se sintiera solitario el dibujo. Extendí el grueso tapiz bajo las hojas de los arbustos, donde saltaban de la alfombra los gusanos de las tinieblas, como rojas mariposas. Y en el arco donde se cruzan los tres puentes de la calle cubrí las aristas de los muros con toscos adornos de rana y pájaro.

Arlene Ory


Horsing Around by Arlene Ory

Horsing Around
Japanese Ink and Watercolor

The nose of a horse
Is a flower in a cupped hand, muzzle thrust into the
flowers with the mildness of sunlight. Beneath it,
foam clings to the flank, silvery as lunar light.
The wind pushes against the sky, a blue that wants to
turn into white. These are the clouds I touch like silk,
softened from rain: the world washed and fresh. I love
paradoxical paintings that are, for me, about the
moment of the pause, or stop, in which things turn
into themselves, unfolding. The horse’s eyes appear under
the arch of his brow; they look at me with that calmness
that I’ve tried to find in others, and seen, only in horses.
Is that another paradox? The horse’s eyes say, What are
you looking for? There is nothing to miss.

Allison Parrish

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Traces/Mechanisms by Allison Parrish

Digital Print Size: 12”x12”

A monochrome, tonally burnt, the surface rough-hewn, is deranged by the dot-sized trace of a word. Like the glitch in digital/analogue transmission, the word is disturbingly obscure in the face of the surface. Scratched words alluding to the surface’s contents and abstract textual data: language-as-matter, language-as-materialism. The language pricks the surface, reads and inhabits but cannot transcend the surface. Autonomous and horrific, the surface performs a reality rarely seen, language decomposing and consuming language. The poetry, like the surface, is built of paradox and fragmentation. This textual/visual language appears as if it were the surface of the work, as if It cannot be separated. The surface and the text are the same, no matter how much one pushes at it, it remains the same. Perhaps, it is only the trace, the illusion of the word’s presence–the impenetrable illusion of meaning. Whether it was ever there is irrelevant; all that matters is this fragile trace, this tiny crack that seems to beg for further exploration: a peek inside the mechanism of prosaic strings of words.

Anna Ridler

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Moving Image piece made from archival nasa footage, GAN generated animation, 1970s science educational videos

Stars, stars everywhere, with a gossamer
A swarm of meteors, a blizzard of
Many, many more than I ever imagined or could ever
stand counting, streaming, crossing, in line, racing past
each other and past me, colliding, all of them, through me.
And the camera following them, guiding me,
the camera of the eye, and the eye of the camera,
the eye of the world. And the world, again
and again.

John Tollett

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Medicine of Sleep by John Tollett

The Medicine of Sleep
Charcoal drawing with digital colorization
Digital print on canvas size: 28”x40”

Is this Venus’s likeness
The lips are cold and the hands are cold
And the feet are cold with the hair
That is coilèd not too close nor too far
As a goddess’ hair should be:
And the belly and breast
Are white with a sheet, moulded in her sleep
To the length and taper of a body,
With a shadow of smile or a breath on the upper lip,
Or, from the medicine of sleep, a dew-drop
Wetting the tip of a nose, or a twitched vein,
Relaxed and calmed,
And the soft dread upon the lids of a sleeper.

Phillip Westen II


The whale is a submarine by Phillip Westen II

The whale is a submarine
Acrylic on canvas

So much almost-nothing balanced
like a cloud in the hand. All the final
collapse of an imploding universe.
Is this a primer in the abyss?
Those tiny tears are all that remain.
O lost where goes the atomic calliope — 
a brief crackling of the foul-weather dawn.
An ark could float on those puddles.
It could carry twelve elephants, with room
for two orangutans and their servants
in the luxury suite. As the water rises,
all become silent, in the time of earwigs,
for the tower is a chariot, fleeting,
and the whale is a submarine.

Greta Young


Spurt in the Vegetables by Greta Young

Spurt in the Vegetables
Acrylic and oil stick on paper

Tower blocks
raise dust from Friday market, swirl them to the ground
where fresh figs are vomited by their soft green skins
and eggplants are spat out
butchered from darkness.
The earth becomes precise with small images
so that we can see: pomegranates twisted
into hearts and then plowed up, cabbage, ginger, potatoes
stuck in mud
while beyond, on the horizon, white cafes with frappes
blur, out of focus.
Scapes and scenes
of the world hammered down from above