TALK | Digital art is crime, digital crime is art — Nicolò Bussolati, Paolo Cirio

Recontemporary / Salotto

14 September 2022

Opening 14 September, 7:00 pm


Digital art, blockchain, and non-fungible tokens (NFTs) are undoubtedly trending topics in the art market, as are cyberattacks against them. The more art becomes digital, the more it is exposed to attacks. Computer fakes and counterfeits, attacks on art markets or institutions, theft of accounts or NFT private keys are just some of the risks that digital art runs. However, the relationship between art and criminal law appears, in some of its aspects, more complex and intriguing. Digital art (and especially activist/protest art) often falls within the scope of criminal law provisions. At the same time, many cyberattacks contain a significant artistic component. In short, there is a distinctive interrelationship between art and cybercrime.
The examples are numerous. Denial of service attacks – among the most common in cyberspace – are often conceived as artistic performances: take for example those conducted by the Electronic Disturbance Theater group, led by artist Ricardo Dominguez.
The use of bots and algorithms for artistic purposes can face criminal charges: the bot created by the !Mediengruppe Bitnik art collective to randomly buy objects on the dark web, which ended up buying drugs, has been the subject of a criminal case. Also recently, the hacker group Anonymous broadcast “troll faces” on Russian military radios during the conflict in Ukraine, combining art and war in one act.

Where is the line between art and crime in the digital world? Often the two areas coincide. On the one hand, artistic performances and digital artifacts may run the risk of falling under the scope of criminal law. On the other hand, cyber attacks may contain an element of interest for the art world.
The meeting therefore aims to subvert the traditional approach to the topic (“computer crimes against art”) into “computer crimes as art” and, at the same time, “digital art as a crime”. Using concrete examples, and developing around a debate between a jurist and an artist, it will provide an artistic and socio-criminological analysis of the dialogue between digital art and computer crime.

Author biography

Nicolò Bussolati is a jurist and lawyer from Turin. He has been involved in computer crime since his PhD at the University of Amsterdam. To date, he deals with this issue in the legal profession, in the commissions of the Turin Bar Association, and as a UN consultant. He is the author of numerous publications on IT law and criminal law. Among his current professional and research interests, art law stands out, especially the digital one.

Paolo Cirio is known for exposing over 200,000 Cayman Islands offshore companies in 2013, hacking Facebook through posting 1 million users on a dating site in 2011, stealing 60,000 financial news in 2014 and e-book news from in 2006; defrauding Google in 2005, and the obfuscation of 15 million US mugshots in 2016, exposing over 20,000 technology patents that enable social manipulation in 2018. Most recently, in 2020, he pirated over 100,000 works at Sotheby’s auctions and has profiled 4000 French police officers with facial recognition. His early works include cyberattacks against NATO since 2001.