@Horse_ebooks was a spam Twitter feed with the soul of a poet that amassed a huge following. Then it ceased being spam and turned into a real art project, which debuted at a New York City gallery on Tuesday. The exhibition ended years of speculation: Who was behind @Horse_ebooks?
The answer turned out to be Buzzfeed creative director Jacob Bakkila. The account wasn't an artistic endeavor from the beginning--it really did start as spam intended to sell equestrian-related e-books.
There were some skeptics who knew all along that Horse_ebooks was a human, though Gawker's 2012 hunt for a Russian programmer turned out to be something of a wild goose chase--the programmer did create the account, but turned it over to Bakkila in 2011. Then the fun began.
Bakkila continued to tweet as if he was a spambot, but there was a subtle shift. @Horse_ebooks became more philosophical than a sales pitch.
"The goal was not to appropriate the account but to become the account," Bakkila told The New York Times.
The decline of @Horse_ebooks rapidly unfolded Tuesday morning with a series of cryptic tweets culminating in the phrase "Bear Stearns Bravo," which is the title of Bakkila's interactive video installation on display at Manhattan's Fitzroy Gallery. Bakkila confessed all to author Susan Orlean in a piece for The New Yorker on Tuesday before the exhibit launched.
As part of the exhibit, Bakkila and project partner Thomas Bender, a former Buzzfeed employee, took calls from Twitter followers--they had tweeted a phone number--and read spam tweets aloud.
The fact that Bakkila and Bender kept the charade going for two years is both impressive and a little bit insane.
Well played, @Horse_ebooks. Well played.