Spam As Art


Every time I check my spam folder, I'm amused by the subject lines. They seem to fall into two categories: first, there are human-edited lines that try to trick me into clicking; second, there are crazy nonsense subjects, presumably assembled through some algorithm (most appear to use Markov Chains). I can usually distinguish the randomized stuff from subjects written by a human -- today I received the clearly human subjects: "Customer Notification," "CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!," "talk to me," and so on. Bor-ing. Where it gets interesting is when the human-written stuff has some (unintentional) artistic merit, or when the randomized stuff borders on plausible. For example, I also received spam today with the subject "But Gabe Henderson," which seems to imply much deeper content than the random pseudo-poem about "replica watches" contained in the message body.

We've covered Spamusement, an online cartoon based on spam subject lines (including the famous "you were wrong cabinet sanchez"), and before that spam poetry and eloquent spam. But as spammers continue to hit us with both randomized and handcrafted come-ons, the use of spam as art is also evolving.

Take Linzie Hunter's Spam One-liners, a Flickr set featuring nice textual treatments of spam subject lines including: What to look for when buying a repl1ka watch, No more lonely nights for Linzie, and You'll love the new non obese you. Nice.

File Spamshirt under Ideas I Wish I'd Had -- it's a tee shirt company which prints spam subject lines on shirts. (Check out the gallery.)

There's even an art exhibition devoted to spam-as-art. Sónar 2007 will feature a bunch of spam artists, and provides links to their work online. (Best bet: The Spam Letters.)

All this art coming from something so crass and awful gives me great hope for humanity. As soon as someone finds a way to make Robocalls into art, sign me up.