madeleine flynn and tim humphrey




A field of semi-intelligent seesaws await you.

Brighton Festival May 2018

Consider this an invitation to join a conversation. Pivot is a playground for anyone adult enough to want to engage with ideas and passions that may be different to their own. We ask you to be patient with Pivot, as with each other. Enjoy the rare opportunity to ride in the field of see saws. They are an endangered piece of equipment, much like the dwindling opportunities more generally in contemporary society to resolve our differences through the peaceful means of dialogue.

Maybe you can rejoice in the safe absurdity of a see saw ride, while our democracy teeters towards dangerous farce.Even as you ride, speak, listen, maybe ride again, and perhaps leave, remember that Pivot is programmed to consider all words it hears, and is reflecting your own views, and the views of many others. We hope that you can initiate your own personal dialogue as a tonic for a strengthened empathy towards others.

Commissioned by Melbourne Fringe, as a keynote, with City of Melbourne and Federation Square.

Pivot’s field of boldly coloured seesaws invites you to stop and play – and then asks you to think deeply about the commitments you make every day to create this complex world of ours. What does the future hold for our public spaces when those in power seem bent on inflaming divisions rather than fostering confident, diverse communities? How can we ensure that the tensions emerging from cultural difference become constructive rather than remaining insecure, exclusive, or damaging? How do we find that balance?
For our poetic system, we have combined an agent development interface with Google’s cloud-based voice recognition and voice synthesis services. Our interface is populated  with a lexicon and phraseology of jokes, insults, retorts, small-talk, aphorisms, quotes, and non-sequitors, which use the dialogflow agent framework in a somewhat subverting sense; we don’t want or need accurate answers, just leading questions that provoke reflection and conversation amongst the riders. Many people just yell incoherently into the microphone while riding. This is fine. Others spend half an hour conversing with each other and the seesaw. Many people, have also forgotten, or never knew, that riding a see saw requires effort, in particular, pushing with the legs.
Pivot joins a lineage of machine conversation: Our approach is imagining multiple conversations around chosen thematic; what we would like to provoke the riders to think, or talk about. Each of the Pivot seesaws has a “character” that arises from one of six literary references, and builds many lines of possible dialogue from there. Pivot is built on poetic, literary, and defiantly inaccurate or diffuse verbal behaviour within a universally symbol for physical play.
Pivot employs familiar,nostalgic symbols, in a commentary around the future of conversation and communication, the future of literature even, in an ”agent-infused” world. Every 10 minutes Pivot sings.

Documentation video: