A robot writing poetry? Not quite, the operator actually writes the words, with Scryf, a robot adapted from an old CNC milling machine by Dutch artist Gijs van Bon, transferring the words onto city streets with sand. This ephemeral poetry quickly disappears as passers-by walk through it.
The artist types messages or poems into an on-board laptop and Scryf goes to work as a scribe. Debuted at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, Scryf is on a worldwide tour of cities to celebrate local poets by showcasing their works in the sand on urban pavements.
Gijs van Bon wrote on Dezine: “When you’re writing one [line of] text, another one is going away because people start walking through it. Once I’ve finished writing, I walk the same way back but it’s all destroyed. It’s ephemeral, it’s just for this moment and afterwards it’s left to the public and to the wind.” Though the transience is central to the work, Scryf could also write in paints or chalk.
Scryf can write verse at a rate of 130 feet per hour. The robot has been successful in engaging passers-by in poetry with a high-tech twist. These street poetry encounters provide public exposure to local artists. During Dutch Design Week, van Bon selected the work of Eindhoven, Merel Morre. According to the artist, Morre is “the city poet of Eindhoven; she reflects on what is happening now in the city.” Von Bon has toured Europe and Australia with Scryf, highlighting the work of the poets in the cities they visit.
The Scryf experiment involves the form rather than the content of poetry. It would be interesting to see Scryflike experiments with other kinds of content, used creatively for publicity purposes in public settings. With more and more advances in machine learning, people seem generally curious about what robots are capable of doing and expressing.
For poems written by robots, Twitter has hosted several forays into automated poetry. Among most notable is @Pentametron: “With algorithms subtle and discrete/I seek iambic writings to retweet.”