Exhibition Tour and Artists Talk (Magnus Eriksson and Geraldine Juárez)
Saturday 03 May 2014, 2pm
Exhibition tour led by Magnus Eriksson and Geraldine Juárez followed by a live walk-through of the Piratbyrån archive and talk about some overlooked gems from their history at Furtherfield Commons. Expect to learn some Swedish while we are at it!
SEE IMAGES FROM THE PRIVATE VIEW
Curated by Rachel Falconer & Furtherfield
EXHIBITION TRAILER – Piracy as Friendship
@Furtherfield “Don’t contact future. Future will contact you!”
“For the last sixty years, capitalism has been running a pretty tight ship in the West. But in increasing numbers, pirates are hacking into the hull and the holes are starting to appear. Privately owned property, ideas, and privileges are leaking into the public domain beyond anyone’s control.” – Matt Mason, The Pirate’s Dilemma
Piratbyrån and Friends traces the stories of cultural sharing and affinity-building among the activities and values of the members of Piratbyrån (The Bureau of Piracy). This Swedish artist/activist group was established in 2003 to promote the free sharing of information, culture and intellectual property. The exhibition presents screenings, installations and artworks by founding and more recent members, keen to tell the story of the group on their own terms. It features newly commissioned work by artists Geraldine Juarez and Evan Roth, and a new networked audio collaboration which mediates their rich archive and foregrounds the role of piracy as an agent of innovative disruption and cultural transmission.
“The specific character of friendship as a form of social relationship is that it does not presume a permanent interaction. Friendships are a type of serial solidarity. The story of friendship is a story of meetings.” Viktor Misiano – The Institutionalization of Friendship.
Piratbyrån have always resisted clear definition. Created on the Internet as a loose friendship group with a shared commitment to media and piracy in the shifting ecologies of digital copyright law, Piratbyrån operated through a number of different identities. From the #discobeddienti IRC chatroom, to the infamous Pirate Bay, to the determinedly analogue SX23 bus trip to Manifesta 7, and their subsequent disbandment in 2010, Piratbyrån consciously cultivated an air of mystery and intrigue around their many activities.
Piratbyrån have always had a particular commitment to the value of friendship as a shelter for culture and a space to understand, imagine and experiment as a community from the edges of the Internet.
The exhibition features newly commissioned sculptures and installations by artists James Cauty, Geraldine Juárez and Evan Roth and a screening programme that includes Steal This Film by Jamie King and Piratbyrån and Friends by Geraldine Juarez.
Tapecasts (2013-2014) – Piratbyrån and Friends
SK23 Suit (2008) – Lina Persdotter Carlsson / Piratbyrån
S23m Manifesta Bus Trip (2008) – Piratbyrån & Simon Klose
S23x Belgrade Bus trip (2008) – Piratbyrån
Polymarchs posters (1980-1990) – Jaime Ruelas
Sharing is Caring Map (2008) – Sara Wolfert / Mathias Tervo / Piratbyrån
Kopimi Totem (2014) – Evan Roth
Torrent Tent (2014) – Geraldine Juárez
Riot Chat (2014) – Palle Thorsson
Smiley Riot Shield 2 (Second Edition) and PB2 (2014) – James Cauty
Piratbyrån (The Bureau for Piracy) was started by a bunch of hacking, coding, reading, listening, philosophising, clubbing, rioting, carding, chatting, loving, slacking people in 2003 as an antidote to Hollywood’s representatives in Sweden – Antipiratbyrån.
In 2007 – after having kickstarted the Swedish debate over file-sharing, which by the time had become a major issue in the previous years national election and after having created The Pirate Bay as a side-project that became the world largest file-sharing system – the people from Piratbyrån had grown tired of the file-sharing debate and its endless repetitions of for-or-against, legal-or-illegal, payment-or-gratis. At the last day of April in a Walpurgis fire on the top of the highest mountain in Stockholm the masked members burned the remaining copies of a book on file-sharing they had published some years earlier and declared the debate dead. The video documentation of this ritual, set to the soundtrack of KLF’s “What Time is Love”, found its way to the Indian Raqs Media Collective group who was just about to curate the next Manifesta biennial in Bolzano, Italy.
The loose network of Piratbyrån, now loaded with 7000 Euros of art budget and a sizable amount of cash from selling Pirate Bay t-shirts, decided to purchase, renovate and decorate a 1970s city bus, stack it with 23 people, and head down south.
The ongoing relation with the bus – named S23m/x/k respectively for each trip – would later make an exodus from the exhibition in Italy to head across Eastern Europe and end up at the trial against Pirate Bay. It became one of the most significant undertakings of Piratbyrån and shaped their thoughts on the tensions between digital abundance and crowded space, collective decisions and freedom of choice, and that which can be copied and that which can’t. The bus became a line of flight from the collective subject that had been built, a subject which was very associated with The Pirate Bay and also with Swedish politics, including the Pirate Party.
While nothing was really the same after the bus had returned, Piratbyrån formally lasted until 2009, when the tragic death of one of the founding members – Ibi Kopimi Botani – defined the end of an era. The Internet had already transitioned to another phase and it is not until now, and enough time has passed, that we as a culture are ready to reflect on what exactly happened during those years.
Piratbyrån always had an implicit friendship with the KLF. They share the same historical web of connections and share a similar trajectory, but their activities are shifted in time by roughly a decade. The only contact between the two is a response from Bill Drummond when Piratbyrån sent a link to the documentation of the Walpurgis ritual. It read:
> Thank you for your email.
> I have just read the text at the link.
> I enjoyed it and understood it.
It is probably good that they didn’t exist at the same time because the gap in time gives the relation an infinite unresolvable tension of unfulfilled connectivity and unlimited possibilities.
For Piratbyrån, James Cauty’s personal work resonates with the themes of abundance and rarity, presence and absence, functionality and waste, control and chaos, and draws on the same symbolic language that mixes clarity with suggestion. There is also a similar urge to *stir things up* and *stick ones nose where it doesn’t belong*.
Speaking of stirring things up, FATLAB was for Piratbyrån another one of those instantly recognisable friends that had never met; the art group that Piratbyrån never became, the “the unsolicited viral marketing wing of the open-source movement”, the graffiti crew of the World Wide Web. FATLAB was born when the file-sharing debate was buried and the new web 2.0 era transformed the web.
Evan Roth, co-founder of FATLAB, has made a piece for the exhibition that in a subtle but direct way captures the concept of KOPIMI; how meetings and connections leave traces and makes you a carrier of ideas and information, sometimes without you even recognising it.
Jaime Ruelas & Polymarchs
The soundsystem collective Polymarchs and their illustrator Jaime Ruelas, probably happily unaware of the existence of Piratbyrån, embodies a scene in Mexico where piracy has always been a way of life and a mode of existence. They have materialised, expressed and lived what was only hinted at in glowing screens up in Sweden. Having outlasted all of the above mentioned collectives and managed to stick together for decades, they also highlight both the potential strength and – as a contrast – the fragility of so called “confidential projects”; those moments when friendships turn into expressive units and the borders between the intimate and the public are blurred.
Last but not least, Geraldine Juárez is the reason this exhibition came together at all. She began to read the Swedish-language blogs of Piratbyrån members through Google translate – whose mistranslations made them sound like they came from the near future instead of the near past, until she finally came into contact with Piratbyrån by translating updates from the trial – or Spectrial, as it was known – into Spanish. Now she returns the favor of time-travelling by re-awakening Piratbyrån one last time, to allow their archive to again live up, their ideas to be carried over to others and perhaps even some sense made from what happened, although these things can only be interpreted, misunderstood and re-appropriated – never explained.
Inside the tent that she has crafted for the exhibition – a torrent for piracy as the last shelter of culture – there will be a collection of tapes prepared and circulated by Piratbyrån and friends, perhaps giving some seed for thoughts and guidance in the process of excavating the archive of Piratbyrån.
About co-curator Rachel Falconer
Rachel Falconer is a curator, writer and producer working at the intersections of technology, the media and contemporary art. She currently holds the position of Head of Art and Technology at SPACE and runs the art and technology programme at The White Building and SPACE MediaLab. She is Co-Editor at Furtherfield and a founding member of the collective Hardcore Software.
Her curatorial practice is hybrid and interdisciplinary in approach and her current activity and research focuses on the pathologies surrounding social spaces and human behaviours engaged with networks and new technologies.
McKenzie Pavilion, Finsbury Park
London N4 2NQ
T: +44 (0)20 8802 2827
Furtherfield Gallery is supported by Haringey Council and Arts Council England