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Three Rails Live
“Three Rails Live” (2011) by Roderick Coover, Nick Montfort, and Scott Rettberg is an experiment in combinatory poetics, a generative system that results in the production of short narrative videos, stories with a moral to them.
The three collaborators put the system together at some remove from each other. Coover sent a selection of short video clips and images to Rettberg and Montfort. Rettberg viewed the clips and sorted them arbitrarily into themes (Landscape and Fate, Tourists, Death by Snake, Industrial Sites, Trains, Flood, Toxic, Flight, Stripped, and Third Rail), wrote short three short narrative segments for each theme, and then recorded readings of each of these narratives. Montfort selected particular images, and, borrowing a technique from Harry Mathews, wrote “perverbs”—remixes of two different proverbs that subvert the original—for each of the texts paired to an image. Montfort also constructed a title generator that arbitrarily creates a title for each run of the work. The system the authors constructed selects two image sets and two of the narrative recordings from a constrained random selection. A perverb with a moral to the story is then assigned and the process begins anew. The system thus results in short narrative videos with new juxtapositions of images, texts, and perverbs each time it runs. All of the texts and images emerge from this aleotory but thematically determined method.
Voice acting: Scott Rettberg (stories), Nick Montfort, Judd Morrissey, and Davin Heckman (perverbs)
(Source: The ELO 2012 Media Art Show)