By: Peggy Nelson
September 5, 2013

12 Cheshire Street, London - Link Street View from 2012
12 Cheshire Street, London – Street View from 2012

In the surveillance state you’re being tracked all the time, often not for any reason, or not you in particular, just, you know…. as data. Or, even, as noise, a mistake, a kind of collateral damage of collection.

Because it’s not you they’re interested in. Or, they are, but only as a last resort. They’re more interested in your habits, your patterns, your behaviors—your traces. You don’t have to be there now, in fact it’s better if you’re not. Your paths—your projections, are what’s wanted. And what’s found.

With Street Ghosts, Paolo Cirio has mined masses of Google Street Views to collect stray passers-by captured in the act of passing by, then turned the capture around on itself. Transferring the oddly-2D skins and blurs to life-sized digital prints, he applies them back to the streets from which they were taken, as digital readymade guerilla graffiti. Often, the surrounding graffiti has changed in the meantime, leaving the image a traveler out of time, stationary against a wall, while the various ends of histories flow implacably around.

214 Lafayette Street, New York - Link Street View from 2009
214 Lafayette Street, New York

Dircksenstraße / Rochstraße, Berlin - Link Street View from 2008
Dircksenstraße / Rochstraße, Berlin – Street View from 2008

As the publicly accessible pictures are of individuals taken without their permission, I reversed the act: I took the pictures of individuals without Google’s permission and posted them on public walls. In doing so, I highlight the viability of this sort of medium as an artistic material ready to comment and shake our society. 
The collections of data that Google and similar corporations have become the material of everyday life, yet their source is the personal information of private individuals. By remixing and reusing this material, I artistically explore the boundaries of ownership and exposure of this publicly displayed, privately-held information about our personal lives.

—from the Artist’s statement

By reapplying the trace to the place, these haunting images set us a reminder, a warning, and a question: this is where we were once. This is how we’re captured now.

Is this where we’re going?

80 East Houston Street, New York - Link Street View from 2011
80 East Houston Street, New York – Street View from 2011


Read more about:
Paolo Cirio
Graffiti on HiLobrow
Surveillance on HiLobrow


Kudos, Most Visited, Uncanny