June 10th, 2009


Pirates in the lagoon

On Sunday the world's biggest art biennial -- the 53rd Venice Art Biennale -- opened. I'll be there in the flesh at some point before November, but for now I'm depending on the Vernissage TV coverage. Oh, and did I mention I'm sort of in it this year?

A mere week before the biennale opened, Oliver Laric (one of the artists behind VVORK) asked me to make a new commentary track for his video piece Versions (warning: containing, as it does, a naked humping Madonna, Oliver's video is Not Safe For VVORK). I made an absurd, incomprehensible lecture about the difference between duplication and duplicity (clue: it's pretty similar to the difference between erotica and pornography).

My version of Versions is now being projected (as part of a "collateral event" organised by Miltos Manetas, a thing called The Internet Pavilion) in a corridor in the Magazzini del Sale, an old salt depot located between the Venezia Guggenheim and the flashy new Punta della Dogana Museum. The salt depot, a squat-turned-official, has been hosting lefty-anarchist events featuring Toni Negri and Claire Fontaine. They got raided on Monday by the Italian police because Swedish copyright activists Pirate Bay were giving away books, records and films there. (Update: this statement is corrected by a member of Pirate Bay in the comments section.)

I declared my support for Pirate Bay a couple of months back, when the filesharers were handed down prison sentences and hefty fines by a lower Swedish court. They're currently appealing, but the judgement is now seen to have been an epic fail on the part of the Swedish authorities, raising the Pirates' profile and swelling the ranks of their supporters. This week their official wing, the Pirate Party, won 7.1% of Swedish votes in the European elections, ensuring them a seat in the European parliament and the chance to push officially their agenda of deregulating copyright, abolishing the patent system, and reducing internet surveillance.

Italian newspaper Il Gazzettino reported the police raid on Pirate Bay's Venice "collateral event" and quoted a government bod calling the action by these "pirates in the lagoon" "a very serious and harmful initiative". A video by one of Manetas' other artists, Aleksandra Domanovic, caught the Pirate Bay spirit better: a model town in a lagoon catches fire as the chords from Brecht's song The Ballad of Pirate Jenny play in what sounds like a cheap, freely-downloaded MIDI version.

It's appropriate, then, that I should end this entry with a piece of self-piracy. The latest Darla compilation, Dr Darla's Magic Music 32-in-1 Hemp Peppermint, features a previously-unheard outtake from the Joemus sessions, a Bond theme-like song (with a time signature change and a Howard Devoto reference!) called Odd Man Out. Follow this link and you can hear Odd Man Out in its entirety, over and over again, for no money whatsoever!