Not so long ago I wrote about the poor copywriting quality of spam. I had some ideas about saving and organising all this spam and then using it as raw material for some, digital, artworks. there are, obviously, two very different ways to approach this. You could either use the texts ‘in context’; present the words as spam and see what the audience has to say about spam and the other way around. Or take the words out of context and use the words like Lego. Building blocks that may take on a completely different meaning when place in a different context. The well from which all you building blocks would have sprung would be spam and thus limit your artistic vocabulary. But isn’t it so that in limitations you may recognize the master? Does spam in a different context get a different meaning? yes. Does that make good art? Not necessarily.
Whether presenting words out of context and calling that art has much artistic value is open for debate. Anyway, as was to be expected, spamart is ‘hot’. Dutch artist Loek Grootjans has been collecting and organising the spam he receives (he specifically asked his provider to remove his spamfilter specifically for this purpose) for years. He expects that in about ten years, he will have built a unique archive of spam. This, I doubt, since many other people artists around the world will have had the same idea (search engine ‘collecting spam’, there you go) . Whether or not his spam-archive will make art-history will probably depend on how he uses it for building other artworks.
Four examples of how spam is currently being used to create art. Going from ‘spam merely provides the building blocks for completely different artworks’ to ‘the nature of spam is at the core of the artwork’.
1. The works of Romanian programmer and artist Alex Dragulescu. Alex wrote an algorythm which he feeds with spamtext. His program than uses these texts as input to create three dimensional images of plantlike structures. He has also built 3 dimensional sculptures based on spam texts.
2. A site where they experiment with ‘recycling spam’ is appropriately called spamrecycling.com. You can make use of spamtexts you have received and turn that into movable objects. However, it’s a shame that there is no added value because of using spam as building blocks there. Dragulescu’s works seem to improve in meaning when you know how the sculptures were created with spam.
3. A better (at least I think so) example of how you can use spamtexts to create art I found on the Flickr page of English illustrator Linzie Hunter. Her works create lovely tension between the sugar-coated and pastel coloured typography and the wasteful dollar-driven spam where the texts come from. Never before did we want spam to intrude our personal lives.
4. Let’s return to Grootjans. Merely saving and archiving spam is not all he does. One of the artworks he created using spam is part of the Utopia exhibition I wrote about in my previous post. Grootjans’ minigolf course is a traditional one, but with an addition. All over the course there are little signs that have spamtexts on them. It can be quite difficult to concentrate when someone is shouting stuff about your ‘Johnson’ at you. This work illustrates how spam effects our everyday lives, sucking up energy and time. How annoying it is. So spam is used as spam.
I think good, interesting, provocative and inspiring art is possible on all the above levels (hey, there are even artists that make great paintings about ‘paint’…) it just depends on what you do with it. Perhaps, after this post you might not hit the delete button so quickly anymore. Try and appreciate that someone sent you a little piece of art.