Interview with Italian artist Paolo Cirio, whose photographic artwork was censored in France

4 November 2020
Paolo Cirio after he glued two of his artwork on the wall of the building
Image: Paolo Cirio announcing his artwork / Photograph by Florian Draussin, Courtesy of Paolo Cirio


On 2 October, Italian artist Paolo Cirio removed the photographic work Capture from his website, after French Ministry of the Interior Gerald Darmanin threaten artist with legal proceedings on Twitter, reported Revolution Permanente.  

Capture, released on 1 October, displays police officers’ faces. The artist invited the public to identify the police officers by writing their name under the photo. According to Ouest France, Cirio created a database from 1,000 public photos taken during demonstrations in France “processed with facial recognition software” .

Cirio campaigns for the ban of generalised facial recognition in Europe and his work aimed to denounce these methods of policing citizens.

Darmanin published a statement on his Twitter account saying:

“An unbearable pillory of women and men who risk their lives to protect us. I request the deprogramming of the ‘exhibition’ and the removal of the photos from its website, under penalty of seizing by competent courts.”

The Tourcoing art centre Le Fresnoy, where the Capture was scheduled to be exhibited, officially disassociated itself from the artist and denounced the fact that the artist had “violated the commitments he had made not to do any such thing”.  Cirio denied breaching the contract and told Freemuse that the art centre was informed about the content of the exhibition and that “the exhibition was part of the contract.”

“[…] then probably they [art centre Le Fresnoy] reached to the point that the pressure was too high. The press release they sent they denied completely that they were involved. They say I was a contract breach, which is not true,” Cirio added.

Cirio told Freemuse that he expected some people to be upset about the project and that they might even try to force its cancellation, but the artist was confident it would not happen.

“I never really thought that could happen to me. I mean, there were some chances, but somehow I thought that it’s not possible that in France I could be censored,” Cirio told Freemuse.

Following the censorship of Capture, the artist decided to not go to public events with his artwork for some time.

Cirio commented on the involvement of state authorities in artistic expression, highlighting that conservative politicians not only censor art, but they also avoid debating on current issues.

 “That is very disturbing that politicians can interfere in the programming of an art institution in Europe or anywhere. And they can stop a project that was actually meant to create debate, to create a new law. It was meant to protect the same people that are attacking me.”

Paolo Cirio is an Italian artist who is using the Internet as the medium to create his artwork. Being involved with digital rights, Cirio focuses his projects on privacy, surveillance, copyrights, politics and many more.

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