“In the context of omnipresent telecommunications surveillance, “The Pirate Cinema” makes the hidden activity and geography of Peer-to-Peer file sharing visible.” – The Pirate Cinema
This quote, taken from the abstract written on the website of the artwork, sums up pretty much exactly what we see in the work. It is truly an amazing piece of art, one which uncovers and presents to viewers the invisible network connections happening every second all around the world. As someone who has used torrents before, this work really fascinated me and got me thinking about two different perspectives of torrenting; one from the perspective of the user, and the other from the perspective of the producer of the original work.
There are 3 main segments in the website, each presenting a different form of the work. The first is the installation of the work. The setup consists of 3 projectors, projecting live-streamed, intercepted data of torrents. Also included is the information of the users – their countries and their IP addresses are shown at the top of each screen. After watching the entire video on the website, I was still hungry for more. The torrents are ever-changing, each scene not more than a second long. This makes it feel as if I were watching snippets of a film – just teasers, without the complete picture. It was also fascinating because I could recognize some scenes as being part of a TV series or movie that I had watched. The quality of the scenes also evoke a sense of a poor quality or lagging stream which gave me a minor headache actually, adding to the sense of claustrophobia of data.
The next segment of the website is an online version of the work. Anyone is now able to view the work, live, on their computers. My first thought was something like, “Wow, now I’m seeing what other people are sharing REAL TIME”, and I was really amazed. I realized that I could actually be involved in the work if I wanted to, all I had to do was download a torrent. This ability to visualize the data being transferred is more than just showing who is downloaded what; it is showing us how the media itself works.
“With Netartizens.tv, we intend to engage a full social and artistic agenda that stretches across disciplinary, geographical, and cultural boundaries, exploring real-time interaction and dialogue between artists, performers, viewers and audience-participants.” – The NetArtizens Project
At this point, I already feel that this work parallels the ideas of NetArtizens.tv. Using data, the artist has managed to achieve a work which spans the entire globe, creating a dialogue between everyone involved, and anyone who wants to be involved.
This series of screenshots are taken from the third segment of the website; this one details the performance version of the work. In it, the artist covers a total of 7 acts. These acts provide a context to the torrent data presented in the work. He talks about the different media (TV shows, movies, music, porn, etc.) being torrented around the world, the different ways in which users label the torrents, and the copyright infringement case between Metallica and Napster, among other things. It revealed alot more about this hidden world of torrents and gave interesting bits of information to think about while viewing the work.
After viewing the installation and the online version, I felt that the video of the performance version was a really neat way to round things off. It provided interesting insights into how the world of torrents work and the way people differentiate between torrents. More than that, it showed me the astounding amount of artistic work available to everyone that without torrents, would probably remain undiscovered and unseen by most of us. To me, this means that the torrent world gives us much more than we can imagine, but at the same time takes away alot from the artists who create the work. I personally would like to see a kind of compromise between the two, but it’s hard to imagine how that would happen.