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Paolo Cirio: Criminal Data


Paolo Cirio’s Criminal Data consists of a video essay and accompanying statement that probe the process and impact of the online dissemination of mugshots and digital criminal records. Mugshot websites have become profitable businesses, collecting arrest photographs from county police websites, storing them in searchable databases, and then charging people for the removal of their images. The photographs are also used as training data for artificial intelligence developed for the purpose of facial recognition.

Cirio’s video takes viewers on a fly-through of symmetrical grids constructed from thousands of blurred mugshots, interspersed with text segments raising questions about the effects of the public distribution and commercialization of criminal records. The images are part of a data set of ten million photos that the artist originally aggregated from 2016 to 2019 by cloning six mugshot websites for his project Obscurity. The photos on these mugshot sites keep circulating even though many of the people shown in them have been found innocent, and sixty percent of the people imprisoned every year have not been convicted of crimes.

Criminal Data envelops the viewer in seemingly endless staggered arrays of scrolling thumbnail-sized images, underscoring the reduction of humanity, identity, and social complexity to data points that are marketed for profit. The mass of people represented and the style of visualization that “locks” their images in walls or fields of image rows illustrates the erasure and devaluation of individuality. The project is a culmination of Cirio’s previous works, which advocate for people’s legal right to remove their personal information from search engines and promote privacy policy in collaboration with lawyers, academics, and legislators.

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Paolo Cirio explores legal, economic, and cultural systems of the information society. His research- and intervention-based works take the form of artifacts, photos, installations, videos, and public art. He received numerous awards and grants, among them a Golden Nica first prize at Ars Electronica, Linz, 2014; a Transmediale second prize, Berlin, 2006; an Eyebeam Fellowship, 2012; and an NEA grant at ISCP, NYC, 2017. Cirio has had solo exhibitions at Fondazione Modena Arti Visive, 2021; Saint James’ Charterhouse, 2021, Capri; PAN Museum, Naples, 2020; Giorgio Persano Gallery, Turin, 2019; Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, 2019; International Kunstverein Luxembourg, 2016; NOME Gallery, Berlin, 2019, 2016, 2015; Bellegard Centre Culturel, Toulouse, 2015; Kasa Gallery, Istanbul, 2013; and Aksioma Institute for Contemporary Art, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2013 and 2011.


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