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09/24/2013

Beloved spambot @Horse_ebooks is actually performance art

The Twitter account @Horse_ebooks has inspired devotion for its captivating rapidfire nonsense. Apparently a spam account set up to spew random mashed-up bits of text and links, @Horse_ebooks managed to gain 214,000 followers who appreciated the beauty of sort-of-epigrammatic tweets like:

 

and

 

or

 

Part of the feed's charm was that it appeared to be automated, a spam-bot that actually subverted spam and was sort of poetry. @Horse_ebooks inspired comics, tshirts, and other merchandise bearing its collected wisdom, like this hand-stamped copper pendant that reads "I'm not a sommelier, I'm not a wine snob, heck I don't even work" ($35.33 when it was available, which it's not anymore.)

But Tuesday morning on the New Yorker's website, writer Susan Orlean revealed that @Horse_ebooks and a YouTube channel called Pronunciation Book are actually the work of two artists, Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender. The two have managed to keep their connection to the wildly popular Twitter account secret, apparently, even though Bakkila works at BuzzFeed.

Their concept-art is culminating in a performance at a gallery in New York City that began at 10 a.m. today, and people are already tweeting and vine-ing and suchlike from the gallery. The performance will weave together the Twitter feed, the YouTube channel, feature a telephone number manned by people reciting spammy phrases, and launch an interactive video art adventure (waiting for someone to coin a jazzy art-movement catch phrase for this kind of thing, pleaseandthankyou) called Bear Stearns Bravo.

Apparently, the duo took over the account in 2011, buying it from an actual spammer who a Gawker writer tracked down (though that piece now comes accompanied by a bunch of question marks since the feed was purchased six months before the article came out.)

Webby types have sort of exploded at this news, since in a lot of ways @Horse_ebooks represented everything great and stupid about the Internet, as its arguably-most-famous missive suggests:

Seth Rosenthal, a writer for SB Nation, posted a tumblr where he tried to explain the @Horse_ebooks news to his mom ("I can’t begin to imagine why...anyone was interested in the first place")

Others had less reasonable reactions:

 

As is the case with most historical events, everyone is going to need a lot of time to sort out their feelings. @Horse_ebooks has a thought that might help:

 

 

Kate Allen is the Star's science and technology reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @katecallen.

 

 

 

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