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A Work of Fine Art

Environment of Presentation

One would encounter this piece in and amongst paintings in a high museum or similar setting. The work would be situated in a gallery in which one would not expect to find recent art.

Physical Description

The work is set in a somewhat gaudy, carved wooden frame. The frame has been gilt with gold-colored paint, and then weathered so that it looks old. Framed within is a large sheet of gyricon paper, measuring perhaps 30×40 or larger. It has the speckly gray color that the material has. Magically being printed on its surface, via means not visible, is a curling, sinusodial path of text. The text is dot-matrix, each dot being about 1cm across, and somewh at fuzzy. The text's x-height is 8cm. As the text's source moves and gyrates across the surface, it effaces previous tracks of text in a swath sufficient for the new text to be legible. The rate of text is 30 characters per second (5,184,000 chars/day).

Wandering type.

If the viewer is some combination of lucky, patient and well-read, he may recognize the text being printed out as being from some well-known book or play. Shakespeare, Milton, Barrie, et cetera. If that same viewer were particularly dedicated or stubborn, he might come back to the museum each day over the course of months, and see the entire archive of Project Gutenberg spelled out before him (an estimated 600 million characters).


Print head control assembly.
Simplified diagram of the print head.

Hidden behind the gyricon panel is a mechanism resembling a pen plotter or a cabled drafting ruler. There are two vertical metal bars on either side of the frame. To each is attached a motor assembly consisting of a driver which moves the motor assembly along the vertical bars, and a driver which moves the cable. The cable is a continuous loop attached to both of the motor assemblies. Between the two assemblies is the print head. The print head is physically attached to only the top side of the cable loop. This allows the motor assemblies to drive the cable in order to control the horizontal position of the print head. A microprocessor coordinates the motor assemblies and controls the activity of the print head.

The print head has a single row of electromagnetic pins which are used to activate the gyricon sheet. On one side of the pins (the front relative to the path of travel) is a permanent magnet of opposite polarity than the electromagnets. This permanent magnet clears the path of travel, resetting the sheet’s coloration to white. The print head itself is capable of rotating itself to always have its pins be perpendicular to the overall path of travel.

Apologies to Fra Bartolomeo, whose painting I covered up.

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