The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

SPAM AS ARTFORM
tour de force
In a development that reminds me of nothing so much as the use of excrement as artistic medium, three 25-year-old artists have developed an exhibit show centered around years of spam email. The show, "Reimagining the Ordovician Gothic: Fossils from the Golden Age of Spam", has managed to find a poetry in mountains of penis enlargement and Nigerian money-laundering pitches, and perhaps, a chronicle for future generations to ponder over when they study the late 20th- and early 21st Centuries:

Subject: (SPAM?) read this-i have a new cream for stretch marks

"a new you / communicating with server / fast shipping / bergen salvar/

unaligned nicht ausgerichtet, krum(Adverb)"...

A wall of testimonials to the effectiveness of spam ("MASS EMAIL WORKS") faces a wall of confused and frustrated recipients, including one from 1982 in which the writer doesn't seem to know what do with this new phenomenon, much less what to call it.

"There was an early age of this stuff, when people were really getting these e-mails for the first time," said Rosenthal. "There's this losing of digital innocence. Once everyone is cynical about this, once there are no more grandmothers who are going to believe all the things that they are getting in their inboxes, what happens then?"

Maybe that's when spam truly becomes history.

A little while back, I engaged in a friendly debate over the value of blogging, especially as the creation of historical record. As trippy as it seems to have some 15-year-old's Livejournal scrawlings live on as historical representation of our times, the thought of junk email--which now consists of some 60 percent of all email being sent--also filling that role is both comical and depressing. "What did you do when you were younger, Grandpa?" "Well, as you can see from the record, I spent lots of time reading about how to lose weight and watch young lesbians do it all."