Italian-born, New York-based media artist and hacktivist Paolo Cirio is no stranger to controversy. In fact he has even received death threats as a result of his 2012 social hacking project “Face to Facebook.” Cirio was one of the keynote speakers at the 2013 International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA2013) and presented two works of art, the highly subversive and site specific “Street Ghosts” as well as the infamous “Face to Facebook.” To find out more about his participation in the ISEA2013 BLOUIN ARTINFO got in touch with Paolo Cirio and asked him a few questions.
Tell us a bit about your ISEA 2013 artwork
In Sydney I installed four “Street Ghosts” in the form of street art-style paper posters that were wheat-pasted in George Street next to the MCA. Life-sized pictures of people found on Google’s Street View are printed and posted without authorization at the same spot where they were taken. The posters are printed in colour on thin paper, cut along the outline and then affixed on the walls of public buildings at the precise spot on the wall where they appear in Google’s Street View image.
At the keynote, with Alessandro Ludovico, we presented the “Hacking Monopolism Trilogy” and especially the third piece of it, “Face to Facebook.” This project was a social experiment: stealing one million Facebook profiles, filtering them with face-recognition software, and then posting them on a custom-made dating website, sorted by their facial expression characteristics. Our mission was to give all these virtual identities a new shared place to expose themselves freely, breaking Facebook’s constraints and boring social rules. So we established a new website (Lovely-Faces.com) giving them justice and granting them the possibility of soon being face to face with anybody who is attracted by their facial expression. The event was set in five days of intense media coverage and thrilling personal reactions, which became a Global Mass Media Hack Performance. During the performance we counted one thousand media coverages around the world, eleven lawsuit threats, five death threats, several letters from the lawyers of Facebook.
What, in your opinion, does the future hold for electronic art?
It's the same future that painting, sculpture and any other art form had.
Supposing you were completely free of boundaries and the sky was the limit, what would your next art project be?
Involving billions of people in my performance simultaneously and engaging them in thinking together about the power of art.
What projects have you got planned for the future?
Most of my work is kept secret before its publication for creating a live media event and because of its controversy and legal issues. So I can't reveal the next plans.