Art in your spam folder

SPART homepage in September 2013.

SPART homepage in September 2013.

You know spam emails? If spam is the digital equivalent to an advertisement stuck on the windshield of your car, SPART was like someone leaving photocopies of their drawings on the windshield instead. The anonymous creator of the SPART project made drawings that were sent out in jpeg form to SPART mailing list subscribers, but people were encouraged to sign up their friends to receive the emails. SPART is described on its website as “Free, Unsolicited Art For The Masses.” That could just as easily be a description of traditional street art. SPART didn’t infiltrate websites, but it did invade email inboxes.

I remember receiving my first SPART one day out of the blue. It was strange and unexpected, but it made me smile. I was glad I read the message and saw the drawing. It was a lot like coming across a piece of unfamiliar street art, but it came to me without me ever having to leave my desk. And the SPART creator did put up some of their SPART drawings on the street in wheatpaste form.

I began getting receiving SPART regularly and something that was first an invasion of my inbox became a welcome respite from stacks of press release emails and people trying to get me to blog about their artwork. SPART never asked for anything in return. It was just art in my inbox. Sometimes clever, sometimes whatever. Once I became familiar with SPART and began to expect it, waiting for another SPART email became like walking around a city looking out for pieces by my favorite street artists without knowing what I’m going to find.

SPART is still one of my favorite examples of invasive viral art. It didn’t require fancy technology. It was just a person sending out emails like a street artist might put up a couple of posters and hope for the best. Dozens of SPART mailings were sent to an unsuspecting audience. Sadly, the project came to an abrupt end on December 26th, 2012 when the e-newsletter service that SPART was using decided that SPART was really just spam and wouldn’t let the artist send out any more mass emails.

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