Berlin, May 22
NOME presents


Paolo Cirio

May 22 - July 20, 2015

Overexposed Intelligence with hd stencIls graffiti

With his public intervention Overexposed, artist Paolo Cirio disseminates unauthorized pictures of high-ranking U.S. intelligence officials throughout major cities. Cirio obtained snapshots of NSA, CIA, and FBI officers through social media hacks. Then, using his HD Stencils graffiti technique, he spray-paints high-resolution reproductions of the misappropriated photos onto public walls. New modes of circulation, appropriation, contextualization, and technical reproduction of images are integrated into this artwork.

In this exhibition, NOME presents the nine subjects of the Overexposed series painted on canvas and photographic paper.
The project considers the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s revelations and targets some of the officials responsible for programs of mass surveillance or for misleading the public about them. The dissemination of their candid portraits as graffiti on public walls is a modern commentary on public accountability at a time of greater demand for transparency with regard to the over-classified apparatuses of surveillance that are threatening civil rights worldwide.

The officials targeted in the Overexposed series are Keith Alexander (NSA), John Brennan (CIA), Michael Hayden (NSA), Michael Rogers (NSA), James Comey (FBI), James Clapper (NSA), David Petraeus (CIA), Caitlin Hayden (NSC), and Avril Haines (NSA).

As a form of creative espionage, and utilizing common search engines, social engineering, as well as hacks on social media, Cirio tracked down photographs and selfies of government officials taken in informal situations. All of the photos were taken by individuals external to the intelligence agencies, by civilians or lower ranking officers.

Indeed, the omnipresence of cameras and the constant upload of data onto social media greatly facilitate the covert gathering of intelligence that can potentially be used in a work of art. Cirio’s open-source intelligence (OSINT) utilizes intelligence collected from publicly available sources to satirize both an era of ubiquitous mass surveillance and overly mediated political personas.

Cirio’s political satire reverses the contemporary means of propaganda, exposing the extent to which a public image can be captured on camera and exploited by the very same systems that intelligence officials seek to control. Overexposed derides the watchers with embarrassing pictures over which they have lost control, effectively turning the tables on them and their advocacy of mass surveillance and lax privacy practices.

As they are assimilated into street art culture and the world of art, the government officials who have been ‘victimized’ in Overexposed are transformed into pop icons. Political roles aside, their faces appear familiar to us because they remind us that, ultimately, we are all victims of social media corporations, and surveillance in general. In essence, the portraits of Overexposed represent the historical moment of a loss of privacy as well as a cultural shift in the norms of social appearance.

HD Stencils