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The Elocuter is a direct response to the absurdity of the current global economic crisis and its
representation in online media. Similar to Dada poems reflecting the absurdity of world events in
the 1910's, the Elocuter reads out news headlines in a new, seemingly non-sensical language. It
emphasizes the failure of language to describe the falter of global capitalism and its complex
The elocuter is a small device that attaches itself via suction cups to a computer screen. It has a
speaker with volume control, a light sensor and a simple pushbutton for sensor calibration. It
receives its power from the computer's USB port. Technically, the Elocuter is harvesting news
headlines reflecting the economic crisis from online sources such as CNN, Bloomberg and the New York
Times. A custom program displays these headline as scrolling text, similar to stock market quotes,
in white letters on a plain black background. The Elocuter reads the brightness value of each letter
with a photocell and pairs this value with an allophone.
In this process words are translated into impossible sequences of allophones similar to a Dada poem.
Inspired by Dadaism, but addressing our own digital context, we are consciously creating a
paradoxical situation: mixing the extreme rationality of computers and the irrationality of dada
The name of our project references the technique of elocution, taught as a remedy for stuttering and
autism and as an improvement of spoken language skills enhanced by body gestures. We also reference
news media as inspiration for new poetic forms, such as French poet Tristan Tzara's Dadaist poetry
engine, introduced in 1920 as a set of instructions on how to turn newspaper clippings into poetry.
Finally, this project can be placed in the history of combining human and machinic components into
instruments for performance. Luigi Russolo's Intonarumori created human, animal and machine sounds
mechanically whereas the experimental use of phonetics in Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate evoked the
sounds of machines using the human voice.
Still Images (click on thumbnail for larger image)