Interview about Loophole for All
for "The Verge" (U.S.). 2013.
Joshua Kopstein: Your works frequently rely on a degree of shock value to start a conversation - What were your main goals with this project and what steps did you take to ensure the conversation will persist?
Paolo Cirio: I feel that these days the truth doesn't produce any change. People tend to adapt to injustice and absurdity. However, when concrete reality arrives, it is tough and it hurts — like a hurricane flooding your house, or working just to service your debt or discovering your privacy no longer exists. My projects try to simulate that shock of the concrete apparition of the truth before people get hurt for real. They try to reveal how present dangers and injustices deserve more attention. With this approach, I attempt to produce a real change and go beyond the notion of art as representation, while still involving a large public in an artistic and political discourse.
JK: What's the most shocking thing you learned in doing your research into offshore tax havens and the law (or lack thereof) surrounding them?
PC: A lot is shocking about how the global economy works! For example, in poor countries locals have to pay taxes to build schools and hospitals, and meanwhile multinationals exploit natural resources and labor without contributing any taxes anywhere, thanks to international legal loopholes. I found it interesting that some of those offshore centers are hubs of the global trade but in terms of legislation and governmental infrastructure, basically in the Middle Ages. In places like the Cayman Islands, they barely have a functional government or legal system. The administrative system they do have is very archaic, even though our “advanced” globalized economy uses it enormously. It's a complex phenomenon though, given that Ireland, the Netherlands, Delaware and Nevada are also considered offshore centers. It is not too complex to tackle and stop it, in my opinion.
In general, I would say that the world is always changing faster because of the development of technology and connectivity, but global governance is slow and unprepared. That is the origin of most legal loopholes today . We see the same situation with privacy and copyright issues, where outdated laws and means of legislating are outstripped by technological development.
JK: What have you ultimately discovered about the nature of public information by placing it in different (often inflammatory) contexts?
PC: It's definitely interesting to me to see what the recontextualization of simple information can generate. In my projects, I don't have rich information — they’re usually very low resolution pictures, or just the names of companies. Even the quantity is not very high sometimes, like the Street Ghosts project which was made with less than 30 paper posters. In my projects, it's the human, aesthetic and political perception that is shattered in a new way. We live in a very interesting time. We have never had so much information available accessible to us. We don't know how to manage it and we struggle to absorb it. It’s like the early days of film, when the cinema was confused with reality. People still get confused about the value of information when it's on a screen, on the Internet, or distributed in unexpected way. Sometimes it’s underestimated, sometimes it’s overestimated. But the reaction I produce is just as important as showing what is invisible to common perception.