How exactly is something like 3264 Spam Cans – Art Wants to be Free put together? Behind the most elegant simplicity is, usually, something much more complex than meets the eye. This was certainly the case when designing the look, feel and functionality of the end user interface for 3264 Spam Cans.
In the beginning, there was the idea that sprung from Colin Colorful's imagination. As his first digital artwork, Colorful felt strongly that it should both comment on and epitomize the nature of the digital artistry, as well as exploit the nature of digital technology.
Thus, Colorful reasoned that the most striking comment possible was to create something that allowed – indeed, facilitated – itself to be copied en mass, with the paradoxical objectives of achieving both standardization and originality at the lowest possible cost to the consumer – nothing. It was a short leap of imagination from there to realize that spam, both the digital and real world varieties, fit the bill perfectly.
We started in the most obvious way possible, examining an actual off-the-shelf can of SPAM. After eschewing the copying of a real SPAM can, we decided to create our own. Using an advanced computer modeling program - 3D Max, we set about creating an imaginary can of Email spam. This led to several advantages over a more conventional method, either painting/drawing or photography. In the CGI-3D world, we found that we had much more control over the look of the can, as well as it's environment and lighting effects.
Take a look at four images used in production of the work:
Now, if you study an off-the-shelf can of SPAM, you'll find that it differs in many ways from our can. Our can has a different label, it has slightly larger dimensions and a more aesthetically pleasing opening mechanism. Incidentally, the face on the can belongs to Konrad Zuse, the inventor of the first working computer. The coloration effects were achieved through using Photoshop software, and applying a virtual, tinted transparency to the image. The word “spam” was retained on the can as this is part of the conceptualization of the artwork and it ties in very strongly and ironically with the overall theme of the work.
Once we had the can of spam in mind, Andy Warhol's 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans joined us psychically, and suddenly we had an 8 x 4 grid (totaling, of course, 32) in our mind's eye. We wanted everyone to see this work, so we immediately thought of spamming it out to everyone on Earth – but we didn't want to send out the same image twice. Logically, that meant that everyone would have to get an original work, and every Email would have to be different.
Thus, we needed to create multiple versions. Much thought was given to how this could be best achieved – a lot of calculations were done by a group of seriously arty geeks or geeky artists (perhaps both). After some deep and hefty math to balance the shallow and light art iconography, we discovered that we could produce series of images, with variations in the cans angle and coloration providing the sequence, and write an algorithm to make unique versions for everyone.
But Colorful was mindful of the future: of the generations to come and also the transhumanists who will be easily bored with only one version each, and who will only see beauty in massive numbers of works and combinations thereof. So, we wound up writing an algorithm, hidden behind the elegant, and deceptively simple, face of the artwork, which can generate more variations of the artwork, than there are atoms in the universe... squared. Even with their vastly superior and logarithmically increasing intelligence / parallel processing minds linked into the universal supercomputer, the transhumanists in our Singularity based future will have a challenge comprehending the artwork in all its fullness.
One of the most interesting and challenging aspects to crafting the work was making the mass Emailing system work, and ensuring that every derivation of the work was, indeed, unique. This will not be delved into too deeply here – for more information see the Math of Spam section from the About menu.
From there, it was a matter of creating and uploading the website, and choosing a format for best viewing the digital work. Some of the features that we're most excited about are the self-refreshing option on the main page (turn this on and off with the play/stop buttons) and the Spam this Art! function, which allows any viewer of this artwork to share it with friends.