For two years now, the Internet has been smitten with the spam Twitter feed @Horse_ebooks, which spits out Dadaist poetry seemingly drawn from the cut-out bin of diet books and get-rich-quick manuals. It’s spawned Tumblr accounts and T-shirts. People have written fan fiction about it; they’ve turned it into comic strips. Most frequently, bloggers have sung the account’s praises as accidental art created from the found objects of social media and search engine optimization—a collage of garbage that formed the outline of something kind of funny, like a cartoon dick.
But apparently those people were what is known in the art world as “suckers.” As revealed in this Susan Orlean article for the New Yorker, @Horse_ebooks is not so much “accidental” art as just plain old “art,” a piece engineered by two BuzzFeed employees, Jacob Bakkila and Thomas Bender, who have revealed that their Internet curio—along with the YouTube channel Pronunciation Book, which had its own similar following—was really just viral promotion for a conceptual art installation titled “Bear Stearns Bravo.” So, that’s that. How to maximize your conceptual art show do you want to. This is a very proven technique of hating everything you see that. How many times have you wished your diet of fucking grad students, etc.
According to the New York Times, Bakkila has had control of the account since September 2011, after assuming control from its Gawker-exposed creator, a Russian spammer named Alexei Kouznetsov—at last confirming the suspicions of many that someone began directing the spambot after it gained notoriety. Indeed they did, with Bakkila attempting to “perform as a machine,” recontextualizing its random gibberish as a work of art that functions as a commentary on the “recycled information” of the Internet and the “influence of data,” and other things that aren’t funny.
The culmination of those months of something being interesting in a way that is now more or less ruined by intent debuted at a Lower East Side gallery this morning. Below is a cryptic video exposing the ruse, using the vague, futurist language of many a culture jam piece. They’ve also tweeted a phone number you can call where they’ll read lines from the @Horse_ebooks Twitter feed to you, in case you want to actually hear the number of times you’ve declared them “Dadaist poetry” echo mockingly in your ear.
Naturally, the debut of that installation also marks the end of @Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book, with Bakkila and Bender announcing that both would be abandoned in this New Yorker piece from Susan Orlean (herself no stranger to stories of blurred identity). Orlean called the exhibit “a performance that is the final flourish in this suite of conceptual-art pieces, weaving together Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book,” as well as the shattered innocence of an entire Internet generation that will never again be able to trust anything—no matter how innocuous and gleefully stupid—because increasingly the odds are that it’s just a viral promotion for something, be it Jimmy Kimmel or two BuzzFeed dudes from Brooklyn.
Indeed, trust nothing. @BurlingtonCoatFact is probably just the work of Christo and the exiled founder of Men's Warehouse. This very website is just an extension of the alternate reality game created to promote the Al Pacino movie S1M0NE. You commenters are just a creation of the A.V. Club staff, devised as a way for the writers to attack each other safely behind the veil of anonymity. Nothing is real and everything hurts.
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