PRINT October 2009


Graham Parker’s Fair Use

IN 1929, WALTER BENJAMIN observed that language as employed by Surrealism betrayed a deep tie to the day’s means of mechanical production and reproduction—seeming itself “only where sound and image, image and sound, interpenetrated with automatic precision and such felicity that no chink was left for the penny-in-the-slot called ‘meaning.’” For almost a decade, artist Graham Parker has sought to describe a similar relationship between language and automation in our own time by delineating the form of one of its most indigent packages. Like a digital lumpen, he has been hoarding spam through deliberately vulnerable e-mail accounts. His recently published Fair Use: Notes from Spam, consisting of five booklets collected in a slipcase and illustrated with reproductions of his own work in various media, cuts some paths through this storehouse of junk letters. What readers find is a dexterous

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