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), a Swedish artist/activist group established to support the free sharing of information, culture and intellectual property. The exhibition presents screenings, installations and artworks by various members of the group, including a newly commissioned work by artists Geraldine Juarez and Evan Roth. The show also features a new networked audio project which mediates their rich archive and foregrounds the role of piracy as an agent of innovative disruption and cultural transmission.
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 8, and their subsequent disbandment in 2010, Piratbyrån consciously cultivated an air of mystery and intrigue around their diverse range of activities.
Their political agenda has always been consciously enigmatic, and their identity wilfully plural and complex in character. As the members of Piratbyrån have scattered and morphed into new configurations, what remains clear is their dedication to the strategy of friendship. 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.
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 it's 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 1970's 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.
McKenzie Pavilion, Finsbury Park
London N4 2NQ
- 2018 reads