Weird Twitter is still reeling from the revelation earlier today that the beloved @Horse_ebooks account was not algorithmic, but the project of 29-year-old performance artist Jacob Bakkila. Speaking to The Verge from the Fitzroy Gallery on New York's Lower East Side, where his project Bear Sterns Bravo is showing, Bakkila said the project went deeper than many observers realized.
"The point was never to automate it."
For starters, Bakkila says he never scheduled a tweet. That meant late nights and fitful posting hours, but for Bakkila, the hardship was part of the art. He modeled the project off of the performance art pieces of Marina Abramovic and Tehching Hsieh, in which the artist's endurance becomes a central focus of the art. "The point was to never automate it," Bakkila says. "Part of the installation was performing with no breaks for two years. You begin to see things differently."
"I expected it would be polarizing."
Bakkila confirmed earlier reports that he acquired the Horse account from Russian spammer Alexei Kouznetsov, but said no money changed hands, and Kouznetsov was puzzled why anyone would want an otherwise useless spam account. After that, his goal was to make followers think nothing had changed. "I impersonated the algorithm as best I could." Bakkila also addressed recent speculation that he might be responsible for the popular @Dril account, saying "I'm not Dril, but I'm friends with Dril, and Dril contributed to Bear Sterns Bravo. I don't think he would want me to say any more."
Bakkila has been performing the successor piece, Horse_ebooks 2, all day at the Fitzroy Gallery — so he's missed some of the backlash as devout followers were disappointed to discover a person behind the account. When we told him how the news had been received, he said he'd heard mostly positive things, but wasn't surprised there were haters. "I expected it would be polarizing," Bakkila told us. "Considering people believed it to be human before I took over, it's not exactly a new criticism."