Great boobies, honey bun! My lower intestine is full of spam eggs spam bacon spam . . . spam spam spam . . .
The first episode of Greg and Myles McLeod’s Spamland is uncanny, portentous, and beautifully rendered. The short evokes a sense of narrative but the narrative, of course, goes nowhere. The cues to narrative flow are abetted by a brooding and atmospheric soundtrack whose texture evokes scorched metal, fractured concrete, and twisted rebar.
Transmission header (Timecode 01:00:04)
The narrative accretes by disjunctive synthesis and acoustic transformation, distortion and modulation. The opening frame announces, presumably, the sender and date of the transmission. In the context of Spamland, it is not unreasonable to assume this is a reference to the sender of junk email. If so, viewers are unable to fully orient themselves because the transmission header does not have an email address for the real name, XOCHIQUETZAL GEROW. The transmission was not meant to facilitate response.
Organism at coordinate origins (Timecode 01:00:14)
The landscape, geometrized and ancient, parodies logical order by placing on a Cartesian plane an ambiguous animated figure whose cardioid morphology suggests both a plucked chicken and an internal organ, a stomach perhaps. The agonist’s prickly, tufted tail and claw-terminated arms could be sutured vessels which once connected to the circulatory or gastrointestinal system of an even more grotesque organism.
The agonist’s gestures are indicial, emphatic, and actional. With the base of its tufted tail nearly at the the apparent origin of the frame’s coordinate system, the agonist reaches toward the entrance|egress commenting upon and telescoping (narrating) its actions, “Quietly forward, hands extended. Fingers lightly bowed!”
Fingers lightly bowed! (Timecode 01:00:18)
The frame zooms to the agonist’s climactic revelation that “Iron John was . . . ,” but the clause is never fully predicated. The frame dollies three clicks up the Y-axis, visually intercepting a passing insectoid, a cross between a lamprey and dragonfly whose asymmetrical dilated pupils, long eyelashes, and badminton-racquet wings seem displacements, perhaps by three units along the Y, of our cardioid agonist’s morphology: fowl metamorphosed?
Foul Metamorphosis (Timecode 01:00:21)
The frame cuts to mid-distance, the agonist’s dopplegänger exiting frame left, at which point the agonist and narrative capitulate, the agonist helplessly exclaiming, “That’s why there is no record of them!”
The acoustic landscape unquestionably owes a heavy unacknowledged debt to Aphex Twin’s “Analogue Bubblebath 3 (excerpt).”1 Another “source” for this disjunctively synthesized narrative is repurposed content originally designed by humans to circumvent software that hinders the transmission and replication of what we call “SPAM.” That such software can be fooled, whether by specially-engineered semiotic fragments or statistical improbability, means that the spam now contains what is by definition (because it escapes the software definition of “junk”) meaningful content. Pieces of narrative, proper nouns, plot trajectory: filter-dodging junk email transmissions contain renatured semiotic resources, and these resources can be used to coax, by the Twenty-First century data bricoleur, narrative structure and movement.2
In this instance, using that which is at hand deforms the topology of the body without organs by reterritorializing flows previously connected to the production of scam and spam. The procedure is dizzying even as it articulates a schematic of datastreams engineered, pilfered, and redirected. Fragments of syntax designed to open informatic throttles—so that transmissions may reach humans who will, upon receiving that information, direct portions of symbolic and electronic capital to those very networks whose production is inhibited by those throttles—are synthesized into a contrafluent narrative. That is, spam networks profit by successfully routing data using data as camouflage; however, when bricoleurs like The Brothers McLeod mine that data for narrative source material, the body of capital buds a new organ which secretes intended aesthetic value.
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_____Quietly forward. Hands extended, fingers lightly bowed. Iron John was
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must have been settled well before the League ever found this planet.
Who are them?