A self-described “contemporary artist and pirate”, Paoblo Circio is a sculptor turned internet hacker turned New Media Artist. In 2013, he “hacked the corporate registry website of the government of the Cayman Islands, a popular tax haven south of Cuba that ranks second only to Switzerland for being home to the world’s secret and untaxed fortunes, stealing the identities of 200,000 companies registered there.” (Huffingtonpost.com, 2013). Subsequently, he sold off the hacked identities of all the shell companies for a dollar a piece on Loophole4All.com, arranging monetary transactions through paypal. small businesses and private citizens can enjoy the same tax breaks.
I have a complex feeling towards the practice of Interventive Art. Growing up in a culture that doesn’t have a body of language to discuss social issues like wealth disparity, feminism, equality, I constantly wonder how other people feel about incidents such as the 2008 milk scandal, and the recent child sexual abuse scandal in China, implicating nearly 300 kindergartens across 30 cities. Activism Art provides a necessary venue that allows artists to engage with complex systematic level of discourse that can be very difficult to express with traditional outlet of art. With regard to Circio’s project here, his online participatory experience provided a way for individuals to intervene tax policy in a way that’s immediate, intuitive, and relevant.
The recent relational aesthetics trend in New York confuses me. Galleries are increasingly looking for artwork that calls for direct and simple social and political reference, and using audience participation as a way of demonstrating collective power. A lot of these artworks are presented in a way that provides a cozy illusion of togetherness – A female asian artist cooking a bunch of Thai Food to feed audiences in a gallery, a new media artist who allows a body sensor to translate audience motion into generative pattern projected on the Manhattan Bridge, a net artist collaborating with brand name to display selfies of pedestrians on gigantic LED screen in Time Square. The danger of this formalistic approach to collective power is what Alexander Galloway calls “the interface effect”. Emphasis is shifted away from the disruptive specificity of a given work and onto a generalized set of principles to designing a format.
What Circio presents here is more than a nuanced argument of monetary policy. It’s a weirdly satisfying game that allows players and dealers to cheat, as long as they cheat in exactly the same way. This new anti-rule entertains us, engages us, and invites us into a fantasy of play. We have a very limited amount of direct access to other people’s emotions and intentions. In response, we nurture “imaginative encounters” (Greene, 2009) with art. Imagination fascinates us because it teleports us to an alternative reality where we perceive, relate to what’s possible within our capability.