Interview Interview on Gazeta, national newspaper in Poland in 2016
On April 3, 2016 we saw the largest data leak in history. The Panama Papers exposed rich and powerful people hiding vast amounts of money in offshore accounts. Having in mind your artwork from 2013 – “Loophole for all” where in a subversive way, by democratizing the opportunity to not paying the taxes for everyone, you are criticising the tax haven on Cayman Islands – can you tell me what was your first reaction?
PC: I wasn’t much surprised. I researched on international offshore finance, and I am very aware of the scale of it and that leaks of such of secretive information were going to be incremental over the years. We shouldn’t forget other former leaks, as the Luxemburg Leak and the Vatileaks about the scandal of The Vatican Bank happened after 2013. Panama was known already as one of the major offshore centre, and I was in touch with someone who tried to hack in the company registry in 2010 already.
Does this situation might change anything in the global politic of the economy? Can that kind of hacktivism be the opportunity to fix the system, which is based on corruption, tax evasion, poverty and instability? When not what it takes to change it?
PC: The amount of data published with the Panama Paper leaks is astonishing, however having the information on those companies and individual is not enough, if there isn’t international legislation and pressure on the use of those structures. For instance after the LuxLeaks the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker never resigned over his complicity in helping tax avoidance at heart of Europe, and people didn’t pressure him too.
Internet is a very powerful instrument we have to make information public, and interfere with abuse of powers without the use of violence and propaganda. Our world is truly changing because of it. After a century of one directional media as newspaper, radio and TV, where truth was fabricated and action manipulated, now with the internet every single individual can offer information that is directly reviewed by many. Therefore with the Internet there is a new appreciation for truth, authenticity and democratic change. And that is why the former structures of power are more repressive and they try to control the entire Internet, they are worry about the change that it can bring.
The politic of participation. Is this a future?
PC: It can be the future, however it’s not only a technical question, but a cultural and educational one. Unfortunately I don’t know if many are today ready to participate if they aren’t very informed on the issues they can decide on.
You can have the perfect system in place to have a great democracy, but first of all you need to have people engaged with the factual information, so that they can make good decisions, you have to spread the culture of democracy so that people want to participate.
What is for you the new type of autonomous global democracy?
PC: The decentralization of power through the paradigm of the network would yield social architectures that autonomously manage local needs and would enable collaboration on global issues through independent digital social network platforms. Instead of the current centralized power of governments and companies, we will see several types of autonomous networks working together for the health and benefit of the whole organism. Networks of active cells collaborating as independent social structures can be the archetype of equilibrium and self-governance for every community and the entire planet.
You are taking under the microscope the most powerful and big companies like facebook, amazon, the economist, google etc. Trying to show their gap in the system you are also very often acting on the border of legacy. How do you manage to avoid lawsuits? Do you have a lawyer with whom you are working with?
PC: No, I usually don’t need a lawyer. I know enough the subjects and my strategies to create a form of legal check mate and so make it is very hard to sue me. Then when I receive legal threats, often many, I do what they ask me to do, and use it as proof of negative reaction against them by publishing their threats. However it’s always very difficult for them to sue me, as they would have a very bad press back lash by trying to sue an artist know internationally.
Your strategy in your artistic work seems to be very elaborated. Each project seems to be based on a big research. Many interviews, many data. And also knowledge. How long does it take for you to prepare that kind of work, what is your artistic strategy?
PC: It takes me between one and two years. Mainly it’s research on legal and economic issues. Then I think a lot about what is best strategy to maximise the reactions, and then all the form of presentation as an artwork and therefore the artistic and social qualities.
Your two last projects called “Obscurity” are focusing on the lack of control over the visuality in the Internet. Surveillance seems to be on of the most crucial topic right now in Poland in the context of new rules for collecting by the special services telecommunications data and Internet data. How can we make people more aware of their property and rights in the Internet?
PC: Surveillance is something from the above, usually authorities have interest to control their citizens to control dissent against their interests. Instead privacy is something broader, and it can be abused also from your friends on Facebook. Privacy is a concern especially from the many Internet companies that make their money from using your personal information.
In this particular project, Obscurity, I examine online judgment, the rating, that taken to its extreme is online shaming. I’m interested in the ethics and aesthetics around it, both concerning algorithms and individuals that rate and score others.
With the participatory model proposed, everyone can decide to keep or remove an individual criminal record. I like to invent systems of participation, as they can be structured to channel flows of social dynamics for creative forms of society.
It is a preposition, “what if” everyone could judge people online accused of a crime like an open jury and give a verdict on whether they are to be forgiven or punished by society. The project also questions what kind of information would be necessary to make a fair judgment. I’d not be surprised if tribunals were to one day have this type of online public forum.
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