What is Spam Art?
I have a new harebrained “artistic” scheme. As the title suggests it is to do with spam.
I read about something I thought that was cool; a guy had simply created a dedicated email inbox and ensured that it received lots of spam all the time (not too difficult these days). Then a computer printed all of the messages that were delivered into that inbox and immediately the paper it was printed on was shredded.
I liked it – but a little one dimensional I suppose (I probably wouldn’t have said that if I’d have thought of it first and done it, however).
Another interactive art work I read about, that utilised the Internet, was the guy that had a balloon rigged to an air-pump that was triggered by hits on his blog. Anyone who looked at his blog could rest-assured that their hit, inflated the balloon that little bit more – at the end of one day the balloon was popped.
I really loved this concept. I’m not sure quite what it was meant to represent, but it definitely appealed to my tastes.
Try googling “spam art” – loads of cool results.
My Ideas & Testing the Concept
What I would like to do started with the idea of running two pieces of software on a gallery-based computer. The first program continuously spiders the web and builds an ever-growing database of email addresses. Despite the spam it attracts there are still millions and millions of such addresses out there on the web. The second program would send a message to each of the emails that the spider discovers.
Responses to the sent message would also be displayed by the computer and be published on a blog.
I guess I’m interested in turning the tables on spam, so for somebody out there they will receive my spam and be surprised and joyed at the fact that it isn’t actually the traditional form of spam. If they respond they will be interacting with anyone who looks at the gallery-situated computer or the blog. Thus my interactive art is born.
I tested the concept with a few hundred email addresses that I collected using a simple spidering program, and this has generated a few replies – mostly encouraging. One or two slightly angry or annoyed…. not surprisingly (I am sorry..!)
Take a look at the email I sent here.
The responses have ranged from;
Hi, what exactly is the purpose of this project? And what is the “art” for this project?
To lovely and encouraging responses like this from Anne-Marie;
I am always very happy to see that Students “in general” still have
ideas ! (you are the future my Dear…and the world depends on you all)
And this is the major point that I have to address:
How is art different from spam?David K
Many thanks to everyone who did respond – you’ve helped me a lot.
Also another huge debt to the open source developers who wrote PHPList and all of its components.
Where’s it going?
Well there is quite a development overhead with a project like this; for it to work seamlessly. For my initial test I’ve been filling in all the gaps that ultimately a computer will have to, but I reckon it has proved the concept well.
I’ve refined the idea through the testing. The part of the project that I really want to nurture is the relationship between the email content and the people that receive it. That was one of the most interesting concerns of the people that responded; the content must be relevant or of interest somehow – otherwise the email still constitutes itself as spam and will not be enjoyed by its recipients! So where do I find the content for emails so it will be relevant?
My current thinking is that all the emails that are sent to members of my spam list will actually be generated by users through a website. The website will serve as a medium for any single person to communicate a nuance of thought to (potentially) many thousands of “subscribers”. It can also be a hub for responses generated by any of these “spammed thoughts” to be displayed on the web. I’ve also concluded that anyone who receives these emails must not in an unsolicited manner. It just doesn’t quite sit right with most people (or myself).