July 28, 2006
While most people think spam is something unpleasant, Alex Dragulescu, a visual artist (he studied film, photography, art history, computer animation and programming) uses the characters found in spam messages to create virtual spam plants.
CNet explains how he created this form of art: "For the Spam Plants, he parsed the data within junk e-mail--including subject lines, headers and footers--to detect relationships between that data. Then he visually represents those relationships.
For example, the program draws on the numeric address of an e-mail sender and matches those numbers to a color chart, from 0 to 225. It needs three numbers to define a color, such as teal, so the program breaks down the IP address to three numbers so it can determine the color of the plant. The time a message is sent also plays a role. If it's sent in the early morning, the plant is smaller, or the time might stunt the plant's ability to grow, Dragulescu said.
The size of the message might determine how bushy the plant is. Certain keywords, such as Nigerian might trigger more branches."
Alex Dragulescu has many projects connected to the Internet: spam architecture (that translates "various patterns, keywords and rhythms found in the text into three-dimensional modeling gestures"), blogbot ("a software agent in development that generates experimental graphic novels based on text harvested from web blogs"), algorithms of the absurd ("heap sort algorithm as a hidden structure and illustration of the desire for efficiency and the modes of production of the capitalist system").
It's really interesting to see how close art and technology can be and how easy is to transform ugliness into something beautiful and revealing. "Spam is a random piece of literature, it has unseen effects, it changes all the time. And it's led me to see text differently," says Alex Dragulescu.