Paolo Cirio looks at media based, economic and legal systems in the information society. His works combine investigation and activism through photography, installation, video and public art. Cirio has exhibited in international museums and won prestigious awards. His projects have appeared in hundreds of media outlets and he regularly gives lectures and workshops at universities all over the world.
Paolo Cirio’s solo exhibition Monitoring Control at Fondazione Modena Arti Visive presents works that focus on technologies used in the society of control. Cirio addresses the issues of surveillance and social manipulation in the age of artificial intelligence, social media and big data. His works often represent the material translation of his actions, aimed at overturning and revealing the mechanisms and dangers inherent in new technologies. Cirio creates artistic provocations promoting ethical, legal and technological advances to encourage better use and awareness of the tools that govern every aspect of our society and private lives.
The following artworks are shown in the exhibition: Iris – a study to subvert iris biometric identification, a technology that identifies people by scanning the iris of their eyes, using a ‘hack’ with contact lenses in order to blur the identification or possibly change the identity; a video accompanying Aesthetics of Information Ethics – an investigation of ethical issues related to new technologies that most influence society in the political, social and personal sphere; Capture – a series of photographs of more than 4,000 faces of French police officers obtained through facial recognition, reconstructed in an online database to warn of the risks of new technologies of mass surveillance, including police protection; Attention – a series of photographs selected by Cirio, which depict Instagram influencers promoting controversial products without flagging them as advertising, to deconstruct the influencers’ systems of manipulation; Sociality – a composition of images with a thousand patent diagrams illustrating the complexity and scope of technologies for “programming” and social monitoring; Street Ghosts – prints of images of passers-by visible on Google Street View repositioned in the same places where they were captured by the software, “victims of the conflict between companies, governments, citizens and algorithms over the use, protection and ownership of public and private data”.
On the ethics of information with respect to privacy, there is also the work Obscurity, a defence of the privacy of people who appear on mug shots after they have encountered problems with the law and, perhaps, found their image unjustly damaged if later cleared of the charge. Another work of interest is Overexposed, a series of unauthorised images of senior US secret service officials from the NSA, CIA and FBI linked to Edward Snowden’s revelations, which Cirio found by monitoring photographs and selfies published on public online platforms without the officials’ authorisation and reproduced with the “Stencil HD” street art technique invented by Cirio, and then shown on the walls of various cities around the world.
There is no shortage of works on persecution and political polarisation through social media, such as the Persecuting US audio installation composed of a robotic voice reading millions of tweets archived by Cirio in 2012, four years before Trump made use of this medium for precisely such political strategies and purposes. Finally, the historic Face to Facebook project with Alessandro Ludovico, where Cirio took a million Facebook profiles and published 250,000 of them on a purpose-built dating site called Lovely-Faces.com, sorting the profiles using artificial intelligence that analysed their facial expressions. This represents a pioneering project in the use of artificial intelligence in art to reflect on surveillance, privacy and the economics of social media.
Paolo Cirio, Monitoring Control, Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, until January 30 2022
images (all) Paolo Cirio, Monitoring Control, Palazzina Giardini, Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, Modena, photo Paolo Guerzoni