“Pirate Cinema” Visualizes Torrent Traffic in Online Art Display

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At any given point during the day dozens of millions of people are using BitTorrent to share pirated content, mostly movies and TV-shows. Pirate Cinema visualizes these transactions in an online art display, showing chunks of video of the most popular files as they arrive from all over the world.

Somewhere in a datacenter in Austria there’s a dedicated machine that has only one mission: download and share the 100 most popular files on BitTorrent and turn these bits and pieces into a piece of art.

The machine in question belongs to artist Nicolas Maigret and his Pirate Cinema project. Pirate Cinema has been on display for nearly two years in various venues, but this week the circle was completed when the piracy composition made its online debut.

TF caught up with Maigret to learn more about the background and purpose of Pirate Cinema. He tells us that after completing several projects where the proposal was to represent networks in a physical form, he wanted to visualize how they’re used by millions of people around the world.

“That’s where the Pirate Cinema concept started,” Maigret says.

Over the past several years Maigret has worked on bringing it to life in various forms and this week Pirate Cinema started streaming online for the first time. Those who check out the stream see chunks of popular videos flashing by, gathered from around the globe in real-time.

Pirate Cinema (live here)

The video bits include the IP-address of the source, partially masked, and the country of origin. This is not without purpose. Maigret specifically includes this info to show how public these transfers are, and how easily they can be monitored.

“On one hand this is in response to omnipresent users surveillance going on the Internet. More specifically here, on the file sharing networks, where people are monitored daily, resulting in real life lawsuits,” Maigret tells us.

But Pirate Cinema is also a tribute to the Copy Culture that developed in the latest generations of computer users. The Copy Culture that is more common today than it has ever been before.

“For the last 15 years, P2P networks have served as a great resource for mainstream content, but also for valuable rarities and unknown content that is hardly accessible otherwise,” Maigret says

“File-sharing has been central in the access to culture worldwide. The Pirate Cinema tends to make those activities and dynamics tangible,” he adds.

Aside from the online display there is also a live audio-visual performance. This live show is composed of 6 acts that each monitor a specific selection of torrents, such as the rise of porn on BitTorrent and the oldest torrent alive.

Those interested in learning more about the project can check out the official site. Taking part in the online art project is also an option, but that comes at a risk.

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