The following documents a digital performance that took place in the occluded and ephemeral spaces of participants’ email networks. Produced through the action of viral dissemination, these images make visible in different ways the scope of the work’s performative reach.
Between April 13-June 14, 2017, How does it feel to be a fiction? reached 36,297 email addresses. In order to send this quantity of emails, the piece used a transactional email sending service. Below are images generated from this service that graph the number of emails sent over the past two months, as well as the general geographical locations of the recipients.
Yet perhaps a more effective document of the piece is one that captures its intimate circulation. As described on the previous page, most participants first encountered the digital performance of How does it feel to be a fiction? through an email invitation, which contained a link to a webpage that described the viral mechanism and offered readers the chance to participate through a multi-step consent system. These emails were sent from the name of someone the receiver knew attached to a fictional domain generated as part of the viral dissemination mechanism: email@example.com. Should the recipient reply to the invitation directly, the email explained that their response would not be sent to the person whose name appears in the fictional email as the sender, but to an account monitored by me, the author of the performance. This catchall account gave potential participants an opportunity to ask questions and gave me a way to remain accountable to participants’ questions or concerns.
Since no personal information was stored otherwise, the emails sent to this catchall account gave me a sense of the points of contact making up the text’s viral spread as it was unfolding in real time. Some of the emails sent to this account were directed to me asking questions or expressing views about the work; some of them were intended for the recipient’s friends or acquaintances responsible for them receiving the email; yet many of them were automatic responses generated by corporations or larger institutions. These automatic replies, interwoven with more personal communications, serve as an imprint of our imbrication with larger corporate and institutional structures. This inbox is a repository of those heterogenous connections that reflect our digital citizenship.