Gutenberg’s Machine


Originally commissioned for October 5th national holiday commemorating the establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910, Gutenberg’s Machine casts an eye on the most important vehicles of propagation of democratic ideals in Portugal in the awakening of the 20th Century – Theater and Newsprint. A twelve-page newspaper narrates, by means of excerpts taken from the Republican newspaper of the time, the events that took place on the 3rd, 4th and 5th of October 1910, as if it were an adventure story.

The central fold of the newspaper includes a short play from which the title of the work is taken – Gutenberg’s Machine. The play recounts the world inside Johannes Gutenberg’s mind and his life’s work – the printing press. Inspired by William Burroughs’ Naked Lunch, the story goes on telling how Gutenberg’s creation became in itself the creator, the source of (un)reason and defiance of spatial and temporal boundaries.

Gutenberg’s Machine consisted of a stage-reading in the format of a computed text-to-speech recording played on an audiotape recorder. The original 12-page newspaper was distributed so that the audience could accompany the mechanical-like voice. Through this mise-en-scène, the machine that had taken over its creator became, in a Burroughsian volte-face, the sole vehicle for the story of its creator.

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