Individual Work

Evolution is an art piece designed by Johannes Heldén in collaboration with Håkan Jonson which attempts to defeat Alan Turing’s problem of “The Imitation Game Test" presented in 1951 by using an AI to create new forms of poetry which mirror Johannes Heldén’s own writing style and can be accessed through the website To clarify, “The Imitation Game Test” questions whether or not machines and artificial intelligence will be able to advance far enough to imitate and exhibit behaviour indistinguishable from that of a human. It is because of this that should Heldén’s work succeed in imitating his writing style, he would no longer have a need to produce his work as there would already be an artform producing it, which is ultimately his goal of this assignment. This piece also has some dispute regarding when it was established with several sites (such as and Katherine Hayles article, “Literary Texts as Cognitive Assemblages: The Case of Electronic Literature” ) noting that it was published in 2013 and others (such as the art pieces website and languageandtheinterface.uc ) stating that it was developed in 2014. Based on the copyright information it appears as though the official year is 2014 however.

Upon opening the website the viewer sees a book with a brown border and a light grey backdrop. Underneath the book is what appears to be a wooden table. From this point, the participant is able to choose the language they would like to interact with the artform in, specifically English or Swedish, and can view the abstract page, the artist page, or the documentation page. Should the individual choose to look at the abstract page they will gain knowledge of the purpose for this project which has already been presented above. Alternatively, if one was to look at the artist page they would be privy to details of Johannes Heldén and Håkan Jonson professional accomplishments while the documentation page would allow the individual to gain access to the link for a printed copy of their book which notes the coding used. In addition to this, the opening page also has the copyright information for this project.

Evolution works by having the program start off with a “seed”. This seed is collected from the internet and is a randomly selected poem.. From this, Evolution proceeds to have its technology choose to add, delete or replace different words in correlation to the designated ones present in the work at any given moment based on an automated system. The system itself specifically uses Java/ JavaScript, CSS, and HTML both to run its operation and generate these words. How fast or slowly these words are generated can also be chosen by the individual interacting with this site by using a sliding option present on the left page which has a bar to indicate the minimum and max speed that words can be generated from.

This system also appears to delete words more often then in generates them as can be seen in the screenshots below. After running the program for an hour at the highest generation speed, the program began to generate and delete a word, making it unable to fully produce a poem. This suggests that while the system is able to generate words in relation to the words surrounding it, it is unable to form its own ideas, and adapt its system to recognize the need for more words.

Author statement: 
Evolution is an online artwork-in-progress designed to emulate the texts and music of poet and artist Johannes Heldén, with the ultimate goal of passing "The Imitation Game Test" as proposed by Alan Turing in 1951. With Evolution we aim to examine and dissect the role of the author; when new poetry that resembles the work of the original author is created or presented through an algorithm, is it possible to make the distinction between "author" and "programmer"? And is it even relevant? When the work of the algorithm is extrapolated to the point where the original author becomes redundant, how does this affect copyright, legacy, future writings, etc? The purpose of the work is not to deromanticize or deconstruct the role of the author, but is rather the ongoing exploration itself. Where will it take us, and perhaps more importantly, what will happen along the way?