Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

YouTube page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

From Richard to Gloucester

Date: 2009
Posted by: Michael Rouse
Cast: Michael Rouse (Earl of Gloucester), Peter Rouse (King Edward IV), Jamie Crispin (man on promontory), Kate Tydman (Cecily Neville), Stuart Neal (man lost in woods)
Credits: A Tambrisk Pictures production. Directed by Michael Rouse, produced by Brenda Jane Newhouse, photography by Stuart Neal, sound by Kate Tydman, edited by Michael Rouse and Kate Tydman, music by Bret Vanderburg
Duration: 5.34

A visually striking and frenetically directed interpretation of Gloucester’s speech from Henry VI iii, ‘Ay, Edward will use women honourably’. The approach taken is to visualise the words as much as possible, rewriting Shakespeare’s poetry as images. This is a tempting strategy to follow, though not always a wise one. Words conjure up images quite well by themeselves, and it adds no value to show someone caught in a thorny wood when a line says ‘… like one lost in a thorny wood’. For all that, this is a deeply felt piece of expression, with much care having gone into locations, angles, lighting, the editing dynamic and the treatment of the image. The result, like the verse, gives a vivid impression of a mind both disordered and clear-sighted, a murderer’s self-justification. A strong central performance (the video cuts back and forth from Gloucester’s soliloquizing to the images in his mind) adds to the compelling effect as it rises to a crescendo. All in all, an effective peek into the mind of someone that one would rather have not peeked into at all.

Vimeo page
Tambrisk Pictures website

Richard of Gloucester

Date: 2008
Posted by: weatheringdaleson
Credits: Created by Brian Cassidy
Cast: Brian Cassidy (Richard)
Duration: 3.54

An eerie rendition of Richard, Duke of Gloucester’s speech beginning “Ay, Edward will use women honourably” from Henry VI Part 3 (Act 3 Scene 2), where he declares his villainy (“Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile”). The reading itself is ordinary enough, but what makes it stand out is the lighting, so all is in black except a white light marking out the performer’s face, and the confessional closeness of that face to the camera – a familar YouTube Shakespeare convention. The result is like being made uncomfortable witness to a modern serial killer’s intentions, something that the blandness of the performance accentuates.

YouTube page