Interview for "Tink.ch" (Switzerland)
about "Hacking Monopolism Trilogy
" and artist's profile. 2012.
[original version in german here]
Katharina Good: Your work is quite political. In your opinion, what can art reach?
Paolo Cirio: I think art can drive social change much more than direct political actions. Well, obviously, if it’s art that talks about social conditions and not about the artist’s sensibility itself.
Art is about emotions like desire for change and freedom, so it’s much more inclusive and attractive than political parties. Just think about how much music drove social evolution in the past, compared to elections or riots. In fact, as many scientific studies have demonstrated, humans are more influenced by the subconscious, which is only reachable through irrational visions of dreams.
K.G: What is the potential of the Internet? And especially of social media?
P.C. The potential of the Internet and social media is enormous, but unfortunately there are also huge interests in controlling and exploiting them commercially and politically. That’s why the Internet didn’t accomplish all of the potential social changes imagined at its inception. Look at the case of WikiLeaks: it could have very seriously changed the international political landscape, but that didn’t happen because there is an incredible amount of control over what we are free to know, while still not able to use. This happens because the Internet has been colonized by the same structures of power that used to control the classic mass media, which still dominate the general people’s mindset by tricks of mass distraction.
Other times the limits are about the design of some tools and devices on the Internet. For example, some kinds of social media could be improved to insure privacy and autonomy.
K.G. What has been your most important lesson from the art world?
Good art takes time to be developed and understand and an art career takes ages, which is frustrating, but at least bad commercial art is forgotten after a while, and a good artwork becomes properly appreciated, although sometime it’s taken a century to happen.
K.G. What is the most important thing that you learned in your university studies?
P.C. My university studies in the theory of theatre and cinema helped me to create my projects of Transmedia storytelling and define the theory and manifesto on which they are based. Recombinant Fiction is a genre that I defined as a strategy to do tactical storytelling to entrap audiences in alternative realities sculpted through multiple media and characters performed by professional actors. Some see these projects of mine as post-movies, but they are also studied as works of web-literature, though I still use the paradigm of theatre to define them. The main concept is to use networked media (which means any device that has content created through Internet) to tell political stories, like cinema, TV, theatre and literature have previously been mediums in which genres and languages of fiction developed.
K.G. Which is the role of the audience in your projects? And which environment do you like more? The museum, offline public space or the Internet?
P.C. For me it’s particularly important to do art for a wider audience outside the art circuit and my own social network. Engaging audiences not usually interested in art and politics is itself an aim of my art practice. That’s why I often do Internet works, because through them I can reach people everywhere and involve them in the artwork. On the streets it’s exciting as well, but this may have limitations in the number of participants and permanency of the work.
The museum is for contemplating, like in a cemetery, to remember and think about all the aspects of the life of the artwork. Fortunately, museums tend to give artistic value to the artwork over time, which otherwise may be too ephemeral.
K.G: Why you don’t do other classical arts like painting?
P.C. I’ve always been interested in history of vanguard arts. Frankly, I don’t like much technology, and I’d like to do minimal drawings, or take pictures of models. But I just can’t stop myself experimenting in new forms of doing art and pushing its limits.
It’s not just the linguistic experimentation that I like, it’s also about the political urge and the power of the medium to reach and influence a wider audience, and sometimes being able to defy a powerful target just through the smart use of a few lines of code.
K.G. Some say that the net-art is dead. What do you think about that?
P.C. The truth is that Internet is just a medium. To say that net-art is dead is like saying that cinema was dead in 1920, or that sculpture died in the ancient Greece. Instead, I think we still need to see the best net-art and its pioneers will be soon seen as clumsy artists. Just look at the project Face to Facebook - something explosive like that wasn’t possible just five years ago. It’s only now that working with the Internet is getting very hot, because everyone and everything becomes so dependent on it.
K.G. How do you manage the velocity of change in new media?
P.C. I just look around me, since I’m not alone in the need to adapt to it. I also always try to analyse my own practice theoretically, with the idea that Internet works are closer to live performances than anything else, because of the ephemerality of data and media. This is also why my installations in exhibition spaces have to be seen as the documentation and materialization of live performances, done by durable objects.
Ultimately, the artwork becomes the process in which the data and the medium are used. The display of this process is the most important documentation. All my works can be done again with similar media and information just by looking at the process and script by which the performance was made. For example, the work Face to Facebook can be done again in the future with the next successful social network, just by following the process of contextualizing sensible personal data.
K.G. Do you think that digital art is more comprehensible for our generation than painting on canvas?
P.C. No, I think painting can be good as well, even if it’s not the same as for past generations. Look at the phenomenon of the street-art like Banksy, isn't that political painting? However, we communicate with today's language, which is the only one that everyone understands. Today we all use the languages of sms and email, so we should make art with them.
Unfortunately, there’s a huge educational problem about art and an incredible commercial interest in maintaining a sort of sensibility and taste around a worn-out idea of art that no one really understands.