text > W@r aga1nst the F1lters:

After Francesco Cangiullo, Fumatori, fragment (1914)

For some time, I have been captivated by a form of writing that has been captivating my email inbox.

Dictionaries define spam as intrusive, internet-mediated advertising—a definition whose interest lies in its suggestion of how much non-intrusive advertising is already around us. Spam is not like this ambient advertising, of course. It is pure intentionality.

It resembles those bloodthirsty rainforest leeches with suckers at both ends that will get to your blood no matter how safe you might feel beneath layers of pants, socks, and sneakers. The “locals” know this very well and go around barefoot or wearing only flip-flops. As for spam, no matter what new filters are available on the market or what new junk-catching rules are invented, it still manages to get through and nest in your inbox.

But the issue I would like to get at in this short text is not spam in general but its relation to avant-garde poetry and art, as well as its impact on contemporary poetic and artistic form. For some time I had noticed that certain spam messages that had managed to fool the filters and land in my inbox bore striking resemblance to the poetic and artistic techniques developed in the early twentieth century by avant-garde artists and poets of various sorts. In their form, orthography (if we can speak of such), and syntax, certain spam messages brought to mind the Italian Futurists’ parole in libertà and onomatopoeia, Apollinaire’s Calligrammes, Dada sound poetry, irrational or “transrational” Russian zaum, and the concrete visual poetry of the second half of the twentieth century. This similarity was especially striking a few years ago when spam-filtering rules were not yet as efficient in denying us the perverse pleasure of receiving spam. What kind of relation, if any, can be intuited between the avant-garde radical reformers of literature and the arts and the no less radical spamming techniques of today?


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