You are Like A Sexy Sphinx: Lindsay Lawson on loving spam

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The Smiling Rock, via eBay.

The Rhizome backend, and others like it across the web, act as sanctuaries of a sort for a dying language: the halting, intermittently sensical, koanic lingua franca of the multinational spammer and their programmed counterpart, the spambot. Today, spammers face enemies on multiple fronts: Facebook-API'd commenting apparatuses, Google algorithms, Hotmail junk-mail filters, and Twitter culls of orange-backed eggs. It has been driven to the margins, visible only to those who seek it out (or happen to be a webmaster). What will be lost when it's pushed out of cyberspace altogether?

Screenshot of content awaiting moderation on rhizome.org.

As spam withers, artist Lindsay Lawson’s ongoing exhibition "Sad Hetero World" at Gillmeier Rech in Berlin, and in-progress short film script, The Smiling Rock (which was given a table read at the gallery last weekend)—highlight its literary, aesthetic, and social qualities. Script and exhibition both narrate the sale of pareidoliac objects on eBay: the sculptures and works on paper in the exhibition tell of a vaginomorphic orange (sold with a gratis phallomorphic companion orange), hawked by eBay user safemode

NO ONE WILL LISTEN TO ME AND I'M TELLING THE TRUTH. MY WIFE AND I WOKE UP THIS MORNING AND OUR ORANGE SHAPED LIKE A VAGINA WAS SITTING ON THE COUNTER NEXT TO THE FRUIT BOWL...YOU CAN SEE THAT THE ORANGE IS LOOKING GOOD AND YOUNG, DOESN'T SHOW ANY AGING ON THE PEEL.

The film script revolves around an eBay listing for a rock with a face on it, on sale for $1,000,000. It follows a linguist studying Netspeak who comes across the listing and becomes intrigued with the object. She stumbles on an OkCupid user whose profile picture is an image of the same rock, and eventually, per Lawson, "becomes convinced that the user actually is the rock and realizes that she is an Objectum Sexual."

What Lawson’s screenplay captures so well is the libidinal potential of the spam itself. The mangled text embodies the thrill of momentary social contact with a possibly dangerous stranger, a possibly human poet whose enigmatic couplets have been crafted to bypass algorithmic filters and to, just maybe, get you off. (The rock, too, inexplicably accrued its dashing face.) The film imagines what it might be like to be enthusiastically and unironically turned on by spam, rather than any person behind it—at least before the sad hetero world wipes it from the web. 

The artist has allowed us to excerpt the script for The Smiling Rock below.

February 10, 2014 – 4:57pm
Message from User2b4
84% Match

Hi there. This might sound kind of strange, but haven’t I seen your profile picture on eBay? Are you the one selling that lovely stone?

BTW, I spotted a haiku in your Self Summary. Do you like poetry?

February 10, 2014 – 5:12pm
Message from TheSmilingRock
84% Match

do i don't not have it?

price may be flummoxed. such inarticulate beautific. so ___ after being known for mental physics,

the rhyme looks back at mine, but time cannot auction its selves. blades of sand slide down my half-hour glass.

are you slippery where wet?

February 10, 2014 – 7:33pm
Message from User2b4
84% Match

Not sure what you mean about the price, but it certainly is high. I have to say, I think that rock you found is truly amazing. Have you ever come across something like it before? I can’t imagine how exciting it must have been to discover what’s inside. Maybe I could see it sometime?

And I’ll read your enigmatic message as a definite “YES”... regarding the poetry. You write drunkenly free-form and I like it!

Time may present itself, or even its selves, but wherefore art thou Buy It Now?

hahaha

Do you have any more pictures?

PS – I wouldn’t call myself slippery, but I am (on occasion) wet. ;)

February 11, 2014 – 10:02am
Message from TheSmilingRock
84% Match

touch it with the suggestion of vision.

can be in it more than anything in?

private sluice.

the full advantage of saloon door policy.

but my guess is coming so C U something really cool.

suggestions?

all requests subject to subjection and tips. tips.

tipsssss.

...

the myth of the night is best.

February 11, 2014 – 1:26pm
Message from User2b4
84% Match

You are like a sexy sphinx. I’m going to start calling you The Riddler.

I’m dying to know what goes on behind that smiling façade. Won’t you send me a real pic? I guess I can suggest something if that’s what you meant.

Why don’t you go in the bathroom, write my user name on a piece of paper with a special message just for me, and take a pic in the mirror. Oh!– and take your shirt off too. ;)

I can take a new pic for you if you want.

“Saloon door policy” sounds pretty kinky. Is that an American thing?

Riddle me this:

How many perverts does it take to put in a light bulb?

February 12, 2014 – 5:39pm
Message from User2b4
84% Match

The answer is:

Just one, but it takes the entire emergency room to get it out. hahaha

Was it too much?

You don’t have to send me a pic if you don’t want to, I just thought it would be fun.

I’m super curious about you. Tell me more about yourself. How did you begin collecting rocks?

I guess I should tell you about myself, too. I’m a linguist. I know it sounds boring, but I specialize in Netspeak so I get to study how people communicate online... like me and you now. But don't worry, I’m def not studying us LOL. I’m just intrigued by you.

...

And your rock.

I promise I’m not totally, completely uncool. hahaha

February 12, 2014 – 6:16pm
Message from User2b4
84% Match

Oh, and here’s a little poem for you:

A singular rock that smiles for the world Must be more precious than a giant pearl More than a meteor fallen to Earth

More than a Panda who finally gives birth More than a diamond not in the rough More than Transformers with Shia LaBeouf More than gold when the market is peaking More than a witness who’s finally speaking More than a pre-nup before the divorce More than gossip direct from the source More than a gift card from Niketown

More than a poem I managed to write down More than a pure bred white Persian cat More than removing a bad tribal tat

More than a house for each sister-wife Your mysterious smile lights up my life

:)

Berliners: Sad Hetero World is on view through Saturday, the 17th at Gillmeier Rech.

This post has been updated with the link to the 'true story' on which Lawson's script is based.