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Dada ex machina


This page contains some of my dablings in machine generated Dada, or as I like to call it "Dada ex machina" 1,2 to describe "Dada from the Machine" as a type of art form. In the early years of the 20th century some French Dadaists also played with the idea of machine generated Dada, though in my opinion, never deeply investigated. I believe an electric clock mechanism was proposed by the artist Francis Picabia. I am not too sure if this "Dada Clock" was ever constructed as a physical working piece.

In these days of technological dependency, where every kid "needs" a electronic communication device and a social media account to participate in a "normal" psychological arena, I feel the importance of "Dada ex machina" is yet to be fully played out. I believe this art form will help us to perceive and critique our own behaviours in the current technologically driven environment that we live in, than it did when the Dadaists first proposed their anti-establishment ideas nearly 100 years ago. It will guide us towards the rationalization of acceptence or dismissal of our own creations.

These are quite exciting times that we are currently experiencing (though you may not be aware of it), not much unlike, I feel, it was at the turn of the last century. Fiction merges into non-fiction; the surreal becomes real; illusion into certainty. There is still much more to explore and more opportunities to react with desired consequence.


"The machine does not lie."

Maybe this is because the machine does not understand?
Can you lie if you do not understand?
Is the machine an innocent participant?

"The machine does not lie because it doesn't understand. The machine is innocent."

I think that this is a good reason for experimenting with Dada ex machina.

To me, as a computer programmer3, there is something deeply understood with knowing that machines have absolutely no comprehension of the output of the complex instruction sets we give them. Even though, every step to that output, whether by human intention or error, is traceable to a logical derivitive. The machine does not rationalize my intentions, it just blindly fulfills them. For this reason, in my eyes, they are the perfect platforms for Dadaism. An under-current of anti-logic within the construct of percieved human reason and logic.

To the machine, everything is meaningless, only purposeful. Only following the rules that we give them, in the confines of their construct, can they present the logical conclusion of our commands in ways that seem familiar to us but are, from the machine perspective, reasonably incomprehensible. They are masters of sophisticated mimicry4 of our own human behaviours and desires, leaving us with a feigned sense of intelligence with-in them. It doesn't matter if that machine is a wheel, a hammer, or a sophisticated computer network, the same meaningless applies.

I always find it quite amazing that we place so much trust in machines, even more so than each other, despite the fact that they do not truly comprehend what we instruct them to do. I guess it could be argued that we would never trust machines if they could truly reason like we do. This makes me really wonder why we spend so much time trying to make them more like us.

The purpose of "Dada ex machina" I think is to draw attention to the masquerade that we humans have placed upon the machine and expose it to what it really is: just a human construct to fulfill our desires. As time progresses the machines we create will become so sophisticated in the mimicry of ourselves that we may not be in a position to call the bluff of "The Emperor's New Clothes"5 to which they may represent. The importance of "Dada ex machina" I believe may be the role of the innocent child that exposes the vanity of our own intelligence.

The rules of this art form are not entirely clear, maybe there isn't any, there is no point, though that maybe the point.

I also do this for fun. :-)


It is quite unintentional on my part that I started experimenting with these ideas while I have been residing / working here in Zürich. Zürich of course being the birthplace of the Dadaist movement. Maybe there is something in the drinking water.

Anyway you might find something you like here:

  1. The Nigritude Ultramarine website - A search engine experiment of biblical proportions from the year 2004. This was something I made that initially triggered the idea to me that computers would make a awesome generator of Dada. The machine does not understand that the content of the http://nigritude-ultramarine.0r9.org website is meaningless, it was created as part of a Google SEO challenge to rate a webpage against the search term "Nigritude Ultramarine". The task was to stress the importance of a meaningless term in a meaningless context. The guage of it's success was it's rank in the Google search engine. Currently this website ranks 75th out 64,000 in Google. Not bad for a page that has few incoming links. The page is generated based upon a Markov chain analysis of the King James version of the Bible from 1611. A simple substitution was then used for occurences of "God, Jesus and Lord" with "Nigritude Ultramarine". I remember I had fun making it. (( You might want to view the website without javascript enabled. ))

  1. derived from a twist on Deus ex machina
  2. maybe I am not the first to coin the term but I have never seen it described as such.
  3. is a programmer an artist? i dare not upset the artists, though I feel programmers, engineers and designers as logic architects are in a better position to expose Dada ex machina. It is through the control and architecture of the machine that the anti-logic of the machine can be truly shown.
  4. mimicry - it seems we create machines to help us survive...
  5. if you are unfamiliar with the Hans Christian Anderson tale The Emporer's New Clothes check it out.
    (it haunted me as a child)

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