By Giancarlo Buonomo, For the Daily
Published October 17, 2013
Some artists use paint, others use stone and still others use phone numbers collected from comments on porn sites.
Art is Open Source
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Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico hope to provoke with their Rome-based project, Art is Open Source, which explores “the mutation of human beings with the wide and ubiquitous accessibility and availability of digital technologies and networks,” according to their website.
“They’re really pushing the envelope,” said Chrisstina Hamilton, director of the Penny Stamps Distinguished Speaker Series.
The Art is Open Source creators will be the next speakers in the series, which brings participants in the world of creative work to speak and present at the Michigan Theater.
“The work that they’re doing, it’s not what people traditionally think of as art,” Hamilton said. “But at the same time, as artists, one of their jobs is looking forward.”
Iaconesi and Persico create projects that combine art, technology and politics to force people to consider how their individuality and privacy is impacted by the inherently anonymous, intrusive nature of technology.
“They’re able to, through their work, bring to society the opportunity to have a dialogue and see what the potentials are for what’s going on,” Hamilton said.
A way in which Iaconesi and Persico create such dialogues is by using unwitting people as subjects for their art.
One project, titled “Incautious Porn,” is a mock form of blackmail. Iaconesi and Persico set up a fake company that takes phone numbers left in comments on porn websites, and generates paintings out of them. Members of the public are told that they have to pay $10 to check if they are in this company’s database, $50 to buy the painting with their phone number and $1,000 to remove themselves from the database.
The whole enterprise is a controlled experiment — Iaconesi and Persico don’t actually keep the phone numbers. If someone buys “their” painting, they receive a painting with the original comment, but with Iaconesi’s phone number, and the money they paid goes toward research. If someone sends in $1,000 to get their information removed, they receive a full refund and a how-to guide for internet privacy.
The questions that Art is Open Source raises are quite prescient, and not just because of the current media attention on the NSA and government surveillance. Two weeks ago, David Segal of The New York Times profiled the rise of websites that post mugshots and demand money in return for the mugshot being taken down.
“It’s probably overdue to have the dialogue that they’re bringing to the table,” Hamilton said.
But Art is Open Source isn’t just limited to projects like this. Iaconesi is a brain cancer survivor who, upon receiving his diagnosis, posted his medical records online for others to comment on.
“When you have something as serious as cancer, your life disappears and you are replaced by a disease,” Iaconesi said in a June 2013 TEDGlobal talk this year.
He eventually received over 500,000 responses from TED, ranging from neuroscientists recommending treatments to someone sending him a sculpture of his tumor.
Art is Open Source is about this sort of dialogue, where people come together and discuss the pros and cons of what has become a dominant part of their daily lives.
“All of a sudden, you have to start thinking about what the effect of this (technology) is, and what are the possible outcomes, instead of blindly marching forth,” Hamilton said, “which in society is what we’ve kind of been doing so far.”