Great Wall of China

Description (in English): 

The Great Wall of China is conceived for simultaneous realisation across media, including a Website (1995-96), a CD-ROM with portfolio of prints (1997-99) and an interactive installation (1999). The foundation of The Great Wall of China is a real-time interactive language machine. This uses the metaphor of the actual Great Wall of China as a navigational device. The system is capable of creating an endless stream of ever evolving and changing texts.

The inspiration for this project began with the short story of the same name by Franz Kafka. The database for the work consists of all the individual words in the original Kafka story. There are no linguistic structures stored in the system beyond the individual words. All sentences and grammar structures are formed "on the fly" through object oriented and behavioural programming techniques, based on pattern recognition, redundancy algorithms and Chomskian Formal Grammars. Formal Grammars are used at the sentence level to generate individual sentences and ensure a degree of correctness in syntactical formation. This basic grammar system is augmented with many small ad hoc functions for dealing with plurality, conjugation, tense, etc. Most of these functions operate at the word level, but depend on "self-reading" texts and backtracking techniques. Pattern recognition techniques are used at the higher level of content generation and contextualisation. This strategy has been employed as it was the objective to avoid having any form of "story-telling" model in the system. The artist also wished to avoid using behavioural (Artificial Life) or Agent (for example, modelling a "story-telling" agent) based techniques, as the intention has been to create a system where the story, its subjects, actions and context, would emerge from the formation of the language itself, as something simultaneously written and read. Although at this point this technology is still in early development it does lead to a prose form that is very open, unexpected in its results and poetic.

(Source: Artist's statement by Simon Biggs)

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Simon Biggs