Care(full) Spam

by Lena Pozdnyakova and Eldar Tagi

Care(full) Spam – is a use(full/less) email series sent out to SoC communities.

In their introduction of the exhibition Language in Times of Miscommunication (2023) at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary (the show is focused on language, modes of communication, and research material that constructs the space between fiction and fact), the announcement features a quote from renowned historian Yuval Noah Harari. The author of Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, in the selected paragraph, highlights that homo sapiens outpaced other species by developing intricate languages. These languages allowed for the capacity to articulate concepts that exist purely in the realm of imagination, which later formed what we call today “culture.” Forms of communication, therefore, have been bridging and connecting parts of what we call reality and, hence, are powerful mechanisms of both constructive and destructive forces in the hands of communities.

While communication primarily includes various forms of language, among which are formats of fiction, slang, poetry, and gossip, it also covers modes of communication. Within this domain, such communication forms and devices as social media, posts, radio, and television (with propaganda and news) and advertisements become critical to constructing the collective reality. Many forms are imposed on the people and bear the load of a hierarchical power system, be it capitalistic, state, or other institutional domains.

Given this premise, the Care(full) Spam methodology explored as part of SoC 2023 by There, there project proposes to rethink the connective device of email correspondence used within communities as one of the primary communication means. Care(full) Spam is associated with an asynchronous communication format while maintaining instant communication technologies. By positioning itself in juxtaposition to an “awaited” or “serious” email correspondence, the Care(full) Spam format gives room to engage with the material shared or simply ignore it.

Mariam Webster dictionary suggests that “spam” means “unsolicited usually commercial messages (such as emails, text messages or Internet postings) sent to a large number of recipients or posted in a large number of places.” Within the context of the SoC programming, with, understandably, a limited amount of time for engagement with each person in a large cohort and a limited amount of information introduced about each person’s (or group’s) practice and development of work, There, there aspired to look for another form of communication that would indeed address large groups of people using the accessible instruments at hand. Email sounded perfect for this curious endeavor.

Let us unpack the benefits of such a format, what it includes, and what this entails.

At this point, two Care(full) Spam emails are/were sent to the 2023 SoC cohort once or twice a month, immediately following the stage of bi-weekly focus group meetings phase. The first email marked the end of summer, often associated with nostalgia, summer sadness, and the urgency to stay in a moment to enjoy it before the next season begins. There, there called the first thematic email, “Somewhere Summer,” to remind us about the cyclical nature of things and their transitionality and bring awareness to the feeling of gratitude for the warmth of the season and hope that we have more summers to come.

With this, the email featured several associated maintenance-driven artworks:
– A playlist with a collection of music that touches on the topic of summer.
– Spreadsheeting art
– A sonic riddle

In their prep work on the email, There, there tried to connect several aesthetic, formal, and medium-specific aspects that would tie together each element featured within the email. Each item was prepared by the members of There, there, who are deeply engaged in the work with sound and lifelike art.

The component of the playlist is the key element in the email. Thematic playlist featured in Care(full) Spam is a carefully selected set of music compositions, songs, and sound experiments that expand the theme of the email. The songs range in genre, styles, and approaches and feature contemporary, folk, and avant-garde practitioner’s works. The range of works allows for the introduction of various approaches toward the theme that There, there music lovers bring to the table as part of the SoC project. The initial and most critical function of the playlist is to allow the listener to broaden their knowledge in the field of music while also taking the time to enjoy and listen to the set of pre-meditated narratives that There, there provided for the community.

The second component supporting the playlist format is a maintenance-driven, Google-based document-like artwork. Each Care(full) Spam email contains a link to a Google spreadsheet whose grid structure and grid is “painted” with a certain colorful palette that allows for a unified image responding to the selected theme for the email. Within this document-based artwork, the spreadsheet contains the links to the playlist’s compositions on Bandcamp and YouTube. The spreadsheet file is sharable, and the links are clickable; however, the file is only in a “view” access mode. This ensures certain authorship for the creators while enabling sharing functions and serving as an illustration of the method that can be replicated and played within their own Google space.

This method also serves as a form of archival practice, considering that each email with all three components arrives in the recipient’s inbox and stays in their private domain. Publicly shared Google spreadsheet, however, can be re-shared and accessed by many and holds the primary information (playlist) and theme’s title within its structure.

Read more on Speadsheeting methodology here.

The final element that Care(full) Spam brings to the table is a sonic riddle (sound riddle or audio-based riddle – terminology depends on the approach the facilitator of this method is interested in). Sonic Riddle is intended to cater to audiences’ curiosity and challenge habitual listening practices, allowing for discovery and immersive experience in encountering sound. This part of the Care(full) Spam is also participatory. It invites the audience to actively engage with the sound material through careful listening practice and encourages them to guess a certain aspect or feature about the given sound.

While formal emails often use minimal aesthetic features, Care(full) Spam emails are colorful and engaging. Their range of small to large fonts leads the reader to various branches of experiences – the embedded images link the reader to other curious documents. Through featured diagrams, the reader appears on a bright spreadsheet, a playlist, or a riddle.

Read more about the audio-based components of the Care(full) Spam methodology here.

There, there’s Care(full) Spam methodology is developed by Eldar Tagi and Lena Pozdnyakova. Their interest inspires in building a community around sound practices and experimentation around collective practices of listening, producing art, and sharing knowledge. The first emails with their exploration of employing music-sharing platforms and sending out emails with playlists started in 2017 when they created the “Slowdown” series (a monthly collective multimedia improvisations) at Studio106LA.

What are the benefits of the Care(full) Spam format in accommodating diversity in our society?

This public/private engagement format attempts to cultivate an Inclusi(vE)Sphere. This space welcomes and works with neural diversity that doesn’t allow some people to engage in group work the same way as others simply because they do not feel comfortable in the immediacy of communication within a large group of people.

Inclusi(vE)Sphere is also affiliated with another environment cultivated by There, there – Kompositum. Under the conditions of Kompositum, the Inclusi(vE)Sphere contains the middle (vE) concept that represents three sub-environments within the Inclusive Space:

– virtual&Electronic space
(Virtual Asynchronous Communication)
– varied/vitalEducational space (Dissemination of knowledge, information, and ideas)
– viralEmail space (Spam Emails with components that allow for them to be explored or ignored)

Read more about Inclusi(vE)Sphere here.

Read more about Kompositum here.

Published 10/01/2023