In the Cloud
In Philadelphia
In the World

Public Override Void

An installation featuring a suite of software components that allows users to generate aesthetic texts


Fields of Knowledge
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, Jean-Michel Rabate

Opens to public





4017 Walnut
Philadelphia, PA 19104


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Drawing word associations from its language database, the Engine's grammar uses a probability-based approach to constructing syntactic constituents, which it aggregates into utterances, which it in turn aggregates into compositions divorced from any underlying message, assume their status as poems only as they are read. The process of textual construction is firmly situated within the reader, not the software. Over the last year a dozen poems composed with the Poetry Engine's aid and submitted under the pen name Erica T. Carter have been accepted for publication in a number of little magazines and literary journals. As evidence of the project's success (or perhaps indicative of its failure), one editor accepted a poem with the comment, "I found your works intriguing, but have to admit I couldn't wrest the meaning from them."

The installation includes automated as well as self-service poetry stations and wall panels of code, and takes its name ("Public override void") from an actual string of code embedded in the software program. An audio recording of 49 poems generated by the poetry engine and edited by Jim Carpenter has been made availabe online, as well as a textual overview of the project with extensive excerpts of code.

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Hans Haacke was born in Cologne, Germany in 1936 and has been living in New York since 1965. He studied at the Staatliche Werkakademie in Kassel, Germany, from 1956 to 1960, and then from 1961 to 1962 at the Tyler School of Fine Art, Temple University, Philadelphia, USA. From 1967 to 2002 he was Professor at the Cooper Union in New York, USA. He has received numerous prizes, including the Golden Lion of the Biennale di Venezia in 1993 (with Nam June Paik). Haacke became involved, initially, with physical and biological systems, with living animals, plants, the physical states of water and the wind. Under the title Wind and Water he presented his works for the first time in a solo exhibition at Galerie Schmela, Düsseldorf, Germany in 1965. A year later he introduced the legendary Condensation Cube (1963-65) at the Howard Wise Gallery in New York. There, in 1969, Haacke also carried out his first visitors' polls in the Gallery Goers Birth Place and Residence Profile, which would be followed by a series of further projects of this kind. At the same exhibition, he featured Circulation (1969), a variable network of plastic tubes through which water was being pumped. His solo exhibition scheduled to go on at the Guggenheim Museum in New York in 1971 was cancelled, and Curator Edward Fry dismissed, as the director at that time wanted to censor three works. (Projects at Slought Foundation featuring Edward Fry are available) Haacke's artistic practice grew increasingly into a concentrated analysis of and reflection on socio-political structures by employing investigative methods to focus attention on the machinations of individual politicians and companies. His projects have resulted in debates considered part of his artistic work.

Jim Carpenter taught English to high school students for twelve years before abandoning the profession to pursue a career in application systems development. Since then, he has held a number of technical and management positions, all in or near computational technology, and has also started and sold a company that developed applications for the election industry. He is currently an independent applications-development consultant and a lecturer in computer programming and systems design in the Department of Operations and Information Management at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.