Academic journal article Afterimage

Takedown Notice: A Conversation with Paolo Cirio

Academic journal article Afterimage

Takedown Notice: A Conversation with Paolo Cirio

Article excerpt

Paolo Cirio is a conceptual artist whose work, while often based on digital networks and presented on the internet, is more concerned with underlying social structures than with the affect and aesthetics of the internet. Cirio's work tends to be text- and data-intensive. He targets the biggest multinational corporations out there: Amazon, Facebook, Visa, Google Maps, Twitter. And Cirio has gone for the jugular with each of them--he has scraped one million profiles from Facebook and posted them to a fake dating site (Face to Facebook, 2011); released tens of thousands of pay-per-view articles from major financial news outlets around the world, offering cash rewards to readers who successfully answered quizzes about them (Daily Paywall, 2014); and unveiled the legal identities of over two hundred thousand global companies using the Cayman Islands as a tax haven (Loophole for All, 2013). The pieces are often exhibited in some physical manifestation, as well as published online, where they enjoy a half-life during which the targets in question issue legal cease-and-desist letters and industry journals try to make sense of an "information performance artist" destroying the credibility and security reputations of major brands.

Within the world of interventionist media art, Cirio is probably best known for the project Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI)--Hacking Monopolism Trilogy created in 2005 in collaboration with artist Alessandro Ludovico and artist collective Ubermorgen. For this project he purchased Google text ads, placed them on hidden websites, and used bots to click the ads, which created revenue that was then used to purchase Google shares. In a conflation of Robin Hood and Ouroboros, the funds from this recursive process were distributed back to random visitors to the website for GTTP Ltd. (Google To The People Public Company).

Cirio and I met in 2013 while I was installing the exhibition component of the MediaCity conference in Buffalo, New York. His Street Ghosts (2012) project was being included in the show, and we spent two days printing life-size color images of local people captured via Google Street View onto large format paper in SUNY Buffalo's Department of Architecture print lab, and then driving around the city sticking them to walls in the physical locations where the pictures were taken. It is a testament to the kind of weird synchronicity that tends to happen in Buffalo that when installing the work, we randomly encountered one of the people whose image we selected and printed from Google Street View--a first for Cirio, who's been presenting different iterations of this project in cities all over the world for several years now.

In keeping with the themes of globalized networks and communication, we spoke via Skype on December 12, 2014, although we both live in New York City now.

LIZ FLYNTZ: I thought we could start by talking about Global Direct (2014). I think the most succinct way I could describe this project is "a creative revisioning of the potential for global democratic decision-making, using networked connectivity." The project consists of fifteen diagrams you created that illustrate different forms of government, and concepts related to governance such as "citizenship" and "accountability," as well as a website, a public poster campaign, and a number of short video statements by thinkers and theorists working on global democracy concepts.

There are many organizations and think tanks trying to leverage communications technology and data sharing to create more accessible and horizontal modes of decision-making. What is different about Global Direct as an art project with the same aims? What are you trying to accomplish?

PAOLO CIRIO: If 's true there are several new organizations working around open government data, decision-making applications, or participatory budgeting. All of them require rethinking how politics have created human civilization, now with very different tools and problems to solve. …

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