Since its inception in Sept. 2011, @horse_ebooks has amassed over 200,000 followers and sent out roughly 18,000 tweets. For the most part, these tweets mostly resembled a spambot spouting off philosophical nonsense. Its partner project Pronunciation Book, is a YouTube channel containing videos of a similar nature. The mystery behind @Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book fueled its growth and popularity for years. Until today, no one knew who (or what) was responsible for the accounts.
In an article in the New Yorker, writer Susan Orlean finally revealed who was behind it and what it all meant.
Orlean reveals that the entire project is part of a larger performance art piece. The two creators are Jacob Bakkila and Thoamas Bender. Bakkila is currently the creative director at Buzzfeed, but according to Buzzfeed Editor-In-Chief Ben Smith, no one at the company had any knowledge of Bakkila’s involvement with @Horse_ebooks “We have a total organizational separation between editorial and our often-brilliant creative team, I didn’t know about it and I don’t know of anyone in editorial who did,” he said.
Bakkila and Bender unveiled the final portion of their @Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book piece today at the Fitzroy Gallery on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. A sign leading up to the Gallery gave a detailed description of what exactly the piece entailed:
We are influenced by data.
On September 14, 2011, Jacob Bakkila began the conceptual art installation Horse_ebooks. He has since performed, in secret, as a spambot on the social network Twitter, posting a piece of spam roughly every two hours for 742 days. Each spam fragment is recycled information: an often-incomplete snippet of text drawn from a previously published work, occasionally including a link to a website selling low-quality self-help ebooks. The installation is available on the Internet at twitter.com/horse_ebooks.
In the back of the gallery is the performance art piece Horse_ebooks 2. A phone number has been shared online, inviting the work to call and receive spam messages similar to those posted in the Horse_ebooks installation.
In the front gallery are the video art pieces Spam Loops 1 – 4. The Loops depict people waiting to be spoken to. They extend the moment of conversation between statement and response.”
According to the article, this marks the end of Horse_ebooks and Pronunciation Book. However, Bakkila and Bender will continue to work by launching their next piece “Bear Stearns Bravo,” an interactive video piece that the duo have been working on for four years. Talking to the New Yorker, Bakilla said he will miss working with the @Horse_ebooks account, but is looking forward to “Bear Stearns Bravo,” “No one wants to work on a painting forever,” he said, “When it’s done it’s done. We’re ready for the experience of whatever this next piece is.”
Susan Orlean was also seen answering one of the phones at the gallery, leading some people to believe she was part of the project from the beginning.
The New Yorker released a statement absolving her from any association with the project:
“Yes, we did know about this. Susan has not been working with them, and has no real involvement in the project. She’s working on a story for the magazine about the project.