One of the most attentive artistic investigators of the effects of computerized society, for around 20 years Paolo Cirio has been closely surveying the relations between the infosphere and the space of global capitalism, which have come together in what he has recently defined as documentary realism. While Paul Virilio was upholding the derealization of the world by way of the new media, had Hal Foster since the 1990s not already been announcing the return of the real? Through a series of important works (eight of which are on show), Cirio has sought to give visual form to all those forces controlling and capturing our existences (in a pervasive and violent way),which avoid normal perception and remain carefully hidden despite operating in the light of day.As such, realism means overcoming the opaqueness that makes up the contemporary (financial, social and legal) world. Not only by unmasking what is apparent but also by modelling what remains buried.
Hence, the exhibition title Monitoring Control alludes to a dual form of monitoring: the one exercised by power and, vice versa, the one that the social subjectivities can exercise on the forms of control by becoming aware of the phenomenon and striking out against it. Taking this point of view, Monitoring Control is a sequence displaying the sabotage of various forms of security and surveillance, which opens and closes with a large tower located in the historic octagonal vestibule of Palazzina dei Giardini.Making a direct allusion to the Panopticon control tower, the structure is put in a central position and instead of the guard, the artist has mounted eight photographs of different coloured irises forming a large octagonal crown.
Eyes can identification technology is the most accurate form of biometry, even more than the fingerprints and facial recognition proposed by British anthropologist and eugenicist Francis Galton in the nineteenth century. This technology, which is becoming widespread all over the world, is used to make over three billion recordings a day.Through the Iris project, Paolo Cirio intends to symbolically defile the control device by proposing “contact lenses” of the future that can upset the identification process and potentially make the monitored subject change identity.Overturning the asymmetry between visual regimes (typical of the Panopticon) like this could emancipate us from its control and allow us to monitor it.
Among the works on display there is also the Street Ghosts project: here Cirio selects images of passers-by visible on Google Street View and makes life-size prints of them. The posters are cut out around the edges and then put up on the walls of the buildings in the exact spot where the people were when they were photographed. The work recreates a social conflict: the spectral human bodies look like victims of the clash between companies, governments, citizens and algorithms on the use, protection and ownership of public and private data. Cirio, who has already installed these posters in over 50 cities all over the world, has made four new posters for the exhibition in Modena. They are hung both on the outside walls of Palazzo Santa Margherita where the Google Car shots were taken between Corso Accademia Militare, Corso Canalgrande and Via Goldoni, and inside Palazzina dei Giardini. Sabotaging the urban capture of anonymous individuals by Google Street View, unlawfully taking over Facebook profiles, making incursions into mug shot websites to black out the faces of those exposed as criminals or, in contrast, creating online databases to enable the identification of French police officers.These are just some of the tactics implemented by Paolo Cirio, artist, hacker and activist, who never stops his work of desecration: to remove the mystery (and undefilability) of that which should be for common social use and is instead captured by devices, as Giorgio Agamben would say.
The exhibition will see the publication by Nero edizioni of a book of theory, Monitoring Control, containing texts by Paolo Cirio, Christian Marazzi, Marco Scotini, Bruce Sterling and Nato Thompson.From 12 to 14 November 2021, Paolo Cirio will be guest lecturer at the FMAV School of Advanced Studies, with a workshop that will take place in Via Giardini 160.