Hello zombies

Title: Hello zombies / 回轉喪屍
Year of production: 2014
Medium: Net Art installation

This artwork is commissioned by Writing Machine Collective edition_5 2014

Acknowledgement: Writing Machine Collective, Poet: Susan Scarlata, stop forum spam: http://www.stopforumspam.com/, Fannie Ng @ InNoPO, Polly Poon @ InNoPO, Lilli Hoiting Li, Jason Lam, Geoff Cox, 大同行, Open Space Aarhus

:: Description ::

“We are with you everyday, we live in the Internet with peculiar addresses and enticing titbits, but you call us “spam”. We wander around the network, mindlessly, and you wanted to trash us, but we are still everywhere. We are just the children of your economic and social system, but you ignore and avoid us. We are not dead, we write, we create.”

—This artwork examines these nonhuman zombies as a cultural phenomenon that produces quantified data and network identities. Through running the automated living machines, the artwork intervenes the network by writing spam poems to zombies and reading networked replies continuously. This project explores zombies of the living dead that bring forward social, technical, capitalistic and aesthetic relations in everyday lives.


–此作品探討垃圾郵件(”屍”)的文化現象,這些看似沒有生命的屍其實擁有獨特的網絡身份,透過自動化程式,不停生產大量數據,讓人類感到懼怕。其實屍是具有生命力的活死生物。此藝術作品利用電腦程式不停地干預網絡運作,嘗試以詩句與屍溝通, 並無間斷地聆聽網絡回覆。作品希望帶出資本主義下的網絡文化現象,並探討科技、美學與社會間的相互關係。

* this piece will also exhibit in the form of a zombie’s screen call Hello Zombies (web ver)  -http://www.hellozombies.net

… More on concept

Keywords: data, aesthetics, network, spam, automation, zombies

“[Zombie] is a soulless human corpse, still dead, but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a mechanical semblance of life-it is a dead body with is made to walk and act and move as if it was alive. “

- William Seabrook, The Magic Island, 1929

Spam appears everywhere on the Internet, from downloaded emails to server-based blogs, forums and social media communications.  In 2014, statistics show that spam proportion almost reaches 70% of the entire email traffic[i]. People might not aware of this datafied phenomenon because most email systems come with a spam filtering software, which automatically deletes them or categorizes them into a special folder, namely ‘Junk’ or ‘Spam’. As such, spam comes in touch with us in a seamless way. Sometimes it still shows up in our normal inbox folder, bypassing intelligent filtering rules. Spam not only consists of commercial advertisements and enticing titbits, but they also come with peculiar email addresses[ii].

These email addresses become the identity of spam. The addresses show up in emails but many of them are actually not existed in the network. However, they consume numerous resources of the network and are regarded as “waste” (Parikka and Sampson 2009:4; Gabrys 2013:67). On the one hand, they are actively living in the network and are always monitored by algorithms, on the other hand, they appear nevertheless as waste, and are deadly removed or filed under a folder that no one wants to access them.

This artwork is to explore the notion of the living dead in the context of spam culture, which I use the term zombies to describe spam. Zombies have been used extensively in popular culture and entertainment, such as films, games and literatures (Boluk and Lenz 2011), to describe the phenomenon of mindless slaves (Seabrook 1929). They are usually situated in a condition of an outbreak with contagion effects (Munz et al 2009; Mahoney 2011; Moore 2013). The use of the term often raises the issues of power relations (Fischer-Hornung n.d), labour practices (Moore 2013), bodily infection (Peaty, 2011) and capitalism (Lauro and Embry 2008; Stinson 2011). This artwork uses the zombie figure to describe the computational and network process of spam automation. It investigates the role of code plays and the material aspect of code interacts in the process of zombification.

[ii] Examples of such email addresses are naomiwhitfield274@trash-mail.com and *****@gmail.com. Spam email addresses can be found in stop forum spam: http://www.stopforumspam.com/downloads/

Exploration direction / reflection:

::Video documentation::

::How it works::

:: Review / Feedback / Press/ PR::

:: Exhibition Record(s)::

:: Technical & Production ::

  • -Software: scripting in php, python
  • -Hardware: CRT monitors and old computer cases, a Projector, VGA cables, 3x workable computers [Current setup: 1x Pi, 1x mac OS 10.6+, 1x windows XP], ethernet hub, ethernet cables, 8 plugs power bar,
  • -Requirement: Stable Internet connection, dedicated server/ip, hosting
  • - Current setup:

:: Technical & Production (Hello Zombies web ver) ::

  • -Software: scripting in php
  • -Hardware:  a Projector, VGA cable, 1x workable computer (ethernet / wifi enable)
  • -Requirement: Stable Internet connection

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