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Critical text by Bruce Sterling for Overexposed series. May 2015.
The street finds its own uses

Paolo Cirio has invented a new and more technically advanced form of street art. This is typical of him. Paolo Cirio gives much focused time and attention to forms of cultural expression that most people overlook. Sometimes, by contrast, Paolo publicizes things people much want overlooked.

Threats of lawsuits are common in his works of media art. Most of these lawyer screeds against Paolo involve four, or five, or maybe ten local, regional or global crimes that Paolo has allegedly committed. Lawsuits are Paolo’s best form of art publicity.

Paolo Cirio’s latest work, OVEREXPOSED shows him moving out of cyberspace, his usual habitat, and into the streets. It’s characteristic of Paolo that he would look, gravely, soberly and with sustained attention, at street art and then figure out how to technically upgrade the practice.

Stencilling is the act of taking the typical street art industrial spray-can and applying it to a piece of cardboard that has been sliced up with an X-acto knife. Stencilled street art is a very hands-on, artisanal activity. Being a novelist, I personally don’t spray city walls with stencilled cardboard myself, but I’ve certainly seen it done. I also spend rather a lot of time with laser cutters, for a novelist anyway, yet it never once occurred to me that digital laser cutters could radically improve the handmade craft of stencil street art. It required the considerable genius of Paolo Cirio to make this leap to “high definition stencils.” This artistic advance is obvious, but only in retrospect.

Paolo cuts the stencils with lasers, producing a fine-grained cardboard screen similar to the Ben-Day dots much used in the period Pop Art of Roy Lichtenstein. He can then mist these with colors and get graphic effects normal stencils just don’t produce.

Any normal, everyday street artist might have thought up this method. However, he would only have applied “HD Stencils” to the usual planetary street art fodder of tags, brags, visual puns, comix knock-offs, and pop idol worship. Only Paolo Cirio would refine his own technical breakthrough by making high definition street art from the covert intelligence mandarins who currently infest our Internet.

Everybody knows the spies are there in the Internet, of course. State supported hackers are the best illegal hackers in the world. However, nobody has ever valorized our invisible friends in the intelligence agencies by transforming them into street art folk heroes. Paolo Cirio has done that.

“Overexposed” is just one part of his consistent, well- composed, much-considered creative oeuvre. In a world of hasty gestures and short-lived viral media panics, he’s the picture of patience and consistency. I dare to hope that time is on his side.

Bruce Sterling




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