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Pirating the High Seas of Culture Consumption


Next up in the NW Film Forum’s Live at the Film Forum series is something called Pirate Cinema.  The show is a live performance event adapted from an installation by French artist Nicolas Maigret that will make its debut here in Seattle this week, starting tonight and running through Saturday evening.

I recently stopped by the Film Forum to hear a bit more about this art performance that aims to shed light on piracy, contemporary culture, and consumption.  The work could be generally lumped in with a genre of art referred to as Internet Art, or Net Art as the hip kids are calling it.  Not all net art exists on the internet, and Pirate Cinema is a shining example of this, although it’s content is solely derived from the internet and created to further dialogue about the internet and its total grip on contemporary culture.

Maigret’s Pirate Cinema is a real-time experience of content being shared via peer-to-peer networks, small fragments being stolen and exchanged via BitTorrent all across the world, continually.  Pirate Cinema takes a peek inside specific areas of culture to expose what is being shared and by who, a virtual storm of multi-media in its rawest form.

Based on my conversation with the artist and a quick peak at the performance I will tell you that this will be a cerebral and extremely visceral experience.  It won’t be a flowery evening of beautiful music or imagery, but a complete assault of everything that we might call the mainstream directed at your eyes and ears.  Maigret says that the performance has somewhat of a hypnotic effect as the shreds of audio and shards of video are streamed in a flow of glitches.

The performance runs roughly 45 minutes and is structured in such a way to cover the history of internet piracy all the way through to the current top 100 shared files of this very moment.  The performance starts with an apt metaphor, the recipe.  Maigret tells me that the first files shared illegally via this peer-to-peer network were the recipes of corporate fast food chains.  Not only is the recipe where it all started, but it is the ultimate metaphor for the sharing culture of the internet.  Recipes are inherently open source, we eat something and might be so inspired by it that we create it at home ourselves.  We take that recipe, share it, modify it, and even re appropriate it to our heart’s content.

After recipes, the performance dives into the sharing of e-books and self development propaganda.  After a dose of mashed up self improvement tips and tricks it’ll veer into an audible experience as music is explored.  The most titilating files out there come in next, yep PORN.  As 1/3 of all of the content being illegally traded, porn is a big one, and although we won’t actually be seeing porn (aw shucks) we will be seeing who is watching it.  Maigret will show a real time word map of just where self pleasure is taking place, basically proving that it is everywhere.

Hollywood is similarly explored as the audience watches the many forms of pirated material that is consumed in movie form.  Using the blockbuster Gravity as a token example, Pirate Cinema will show everything from crappy cell phone videos shot in-theater to pirated promotional copies, running the gamete of what audiences are willing to tolerate in order to view their coveted content.

The evening ends on a surge of mainstream culture as the Top 100 files are shoved right down our collective throats.  If you aren’t a subscriber to the mainstream state of mind, well this will be a crash course it what exactly comprises the mass culture consumption.  It’s mostly curvy scantily clad women FYI.

So with all of that packed into a performance there will be a lot to see, hear, and process.  Inspired by the Situationists and sampling, Pirate Cinema takes on the internet in a raw and intense way that is sure to be an experience like none you’ve had before.

Each night the performance will be followed by a Q&A session, so any questions that are raised are fair game as the artist will be on-hand to supply answers.  And for the opening night (Thursday) the performance will be introduced by University of Washington professor James Coupe, an expert in digital and experimental media.




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