Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Apres Duchamp: Spam as Poetry

Today I received an unsolicited commercial email message (otherwise known as spam) which seemed almost elegiac. Of course, I knew that the text was made up of snippets culled from various websites and combined randomly to try and get past spam filters, but I was truly moved by the poetry. (Well, not truly!)

The Dadaist artist Marcel Duchamp exhibited a signed porcelain urinal in 1917, and went on to claim that found objects (or "readymades") become art when the artist chooses them, names them, and signs them.

Following Duchamp's theory and practice, I could claim the following spam extract as "my" poem. It is an object I found in my email inbox, I have chosen it, I have named it "Apres Duchamps" and I have done the equivalent of signing it by publishing it on my blog. Here it is:

Before those virile women!
Dismal, endless plain—
Comes up with as a means to its own end.
Calling me to you with wild gesturings
In realms of dingy gloom and deep crevasse
Of too much truth to do much more than lie
Seen. What you know is only manifest
III. Earliest Recorded Northern Explorers: The Greeks and the Vikings
trainer flips young alligators over on their backs,
Late February, and the air's so balmy
Toward the still dab of white that oscillates
Père and Mère Chose could be in conversation
Unreadable from behind—they are well down
That images of roads, whether composed
That images of roads, whether composed
trainer flips young alligators over on their backs,
and the Splendid Splinter. For a few dreamy dollars,
Through the back of the picture at the patch of white
And still my mind goes groping in the mud to bring


I could do that, but someone else has got there before me. Long before me. Spamdom is an entire site dedicated to "the wisdom hidden in unwanted email". Spamdom has several more elegiac passages just like this one, perhaps all the of them lost sections of one greater work (but more probably all generated automatically by the same spamming tool). Always the "late adopter", me...

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