History of the artybollocks generator

Once upon a time... A timeline of the history of our corporation. Beginning at the beginning, and ending at a yet unspecified date when everything ends.


Arturo Bolucksz lands in New York City as a penniless migrant. At Ellis Island, a helpful Immigration Officer anglicises his name to Arthur T Bollocks. Arthur never finds out what the T stands for.

Migrants standing in a queue after arriving at Ellis Island.

1923 - 29

Arthur struggles during hard times. He tries out just about every job available in the city - Mafia Boss, Bagel Chef, Cheesecake Designer, Corrupt Official, Pastrami Slicer - but fails at all. Stung by criticism of his grasp of English, Arthur vows to improve himself. Buying the largest English dictionary he can find, Arthur dedicates all his spare time to learning every obscure and complicated word. His diligence is soon rewarded when, attacked by ruffians on Delancy Street, he scares them off by threatening to rubricate their incunabulum unless they absquatulate.


Arthur gets a lucky break when a friend asks if he would help a struggling artist to write some words for his first exhibition. Following the artist's instruction to 'just use some big and fancy words', Arthur creates a statement that helps propel Edward Hopper to success. Arthur’s words are widely seen by the New York art community and he soon becomes the city's pre-eminent statement writer. Arthur continues to work for Hopper, some years later helping to retitle his work originally known as 'Three people drinking coffee far too late into the night, especially as the bright light in the diner will interfere with their circadian rhythm’.

Reproduction of Nighthawk by Edward Hopper.


With wealthy philanthropists pouring millions into the art world, Arthur realises there is a need to help artists create exhibition statements. Many artists struggle with Dyslexia - at that time called ‘Word Laziness’ or ‘Jibble Jabble Brain’ by doctors - and hate having to write about their work. Arthur becomes the world’s first specialist writer of artist’s statements and founds Artybollocks Inc.

Extract of the Jibble Jabble Brain essay.


The Artybollocks Corporation expands, opening offices in several European cities. The Paris branch becomes particularly successful, despite an early complaint from a Mr Dali that the statement he bought is actually an accurate description of one of his paintings.

Arthur Bollocks taking a break from his typewriter, New York, 1932.


The outbreak of World War Two in Europe brings a chill to the art world. The Nazis ban all art that cannot be described in fewer than seven short words. In the UK, art, like food, is rationed and each family given a book of coupons. Many young British people never see a banana or a Pre-Rapaelite until the mid 1950s.

World War Two rationbook.


The end of the war brings no improvement. The private creation of artist statements is outlawed throughout the Soviet Union, creating long daily queues at the Ministry Of Artistic Statements. And in the USA, Senator McCarthy declares artists statements with words longer than three syllables to be ‘un-American’.


Struggling to find enough work from just writing statements, Arthur tries to help out on a film. In rewriting just one line, (‘What do you have for a young man such as me to rebel against, in the event that I should elect to respond in that manner?”), Arthur feels he has improved the film, but the studio, seeing that Arthur has only deleted words refuses to pay him and instead sends him an invoice. Arthur never writes for film again.

Extract from filmscript.


Sensing a new era of freedom and creativity, Arthur’s son, Arthur Bollocks Jr, takes over the ailing business and visits a local artist to offer his services. But Arthur and Jasper Johns spend so long on the statement for his forthcoming exhibition that Johns only has time to stick a flag on his canvas and quickly paint over it. The unexpected and positive reaction to the work causes Johns to abandon his previous specialism of pet watercolours.


Hearing of a local factory, Arthur goes looking for a job. There’s no work, nor even any factory, but the proprietor hires Arthur to help perfect a number of short controversial statements to be unleashed upon the world. Arthur’s very first statement helps propel Andy Warhol to stardom and re-energises the ailing business.

Andy Warhol statement: 'In the future, everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes'.


Many popular bands want new names reflective of 1960s culture. Arthur develops a sideline and successfully renames numerous bands, including The Beatles (previously Lennon and McCartney's Big Beat Guitar Quartet), Grateful Dead (previously Gracie and the Garciettes) and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (previously Nash, Young, Stills and Crosby).


Postmodernism and an explosion of new artistic concepts puts a tremendous strain on human capability to keep up with the language of art. MOMA rules that all artist statements must include at least two entirely original words of no less than four syllables. Many artists give up creating work to concentrate entirely on their statements.


With the Artybollocks corporation struggling, salvation comes from an unexpected source. From his dorm bedroom at Stanford, Arthur’s son, Archibald (‘Archie’) Bollocks, creates a prototype computer programme to generate artist statements. Recognising the huge commercial potential of his innovation, Archie abandons his previous thesis (‘The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine’) and gives it to his room mate.


For the first time in history, a computer beats a human at devising an artist’s statement. Archie’s prototype, "Deep Purple" also defeats the artist at chess, drafts, hangman, and is winning an armwrestling contest when the artist unplugs it. A year later, researchers note that even unpowered, the computer is still as effective as the artist at completing a tax return.


After thousands of hours of meticulous coding and testing, the Arty Bollocks Generator is launched, offering all artists the ability to generate an instant statement online. It is hailed as a great advancement by everyone except the 3,000 Statement Compilers made redundant.


In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, there is uproar at the AGM of Artybollocks Corporation at the revelation that it may be the only website in the world not to have collected data on its visitors. The head of marketing claims he does have customer email data, but is then forced to resign after admitting he’s not sure whether that’s a 5 or an S before the @. On the way home, he receives an unsolicited email from Mark Zuckerberg, confirming it’s a 5, and offering more data on the customer.

Email from (allegedly) Mark Zuckerberg.


The Artybollocks Corporation announces a new statement algorithm, Bollockbrain, that uses machine learning to generate artist statements based on the online utterances of real people. But it is soon abandoned after 14% of the statements are found to include death threats.