Like Pearls by Morehshin Allahyari is an animated and interactive mash-up of the Farsi spam Allahyari receives in her mailbox.
The beginning of December saw the release of the DVD version of the Italian film ‘Gomorrah’, based on the best selling book by Roberto Saviano. This piece of news wouldn’t be that extraordinary, if it wasn’t for the fact that, if you walked through the centre of Naples several days previously, you could already find a pirate version in some newspaper stands. The counterfeit DVD, on sale for six euros, is a masterpiece of forgery, complete with the seal of authenticity of SIAE (the controversial Italian state-controlled body responsible for copyright enforcement). Who could tell it’s a fake? On a closer examination, we find that the seals refer to a different product (a series of dance lessons, distributed with a national magazine) and were therefore probably stolen. Also, the cover is not the official one: it’s the one from the rental version, while the label is a reproduction of the book cover. The “original element”, what we might call “the counterfeiter’s signature”, is the label “First release”, to stress the absolute novelty of this product. If we play the DVD, aside from the terrible quality of the images, we notice that the forgers have blurred the Italian subtitles, which are necessary in a movie where almost all the dialogue is spoken in Neapolitan dialect. We might think they did that because they thought they were superfluous, since this fake DVD is only sold to a local audience, but we might also think they did it because, as the Latin saying goes: ‘Verba volant, scripta manent’, preferring to keep Saviano’s j’accuse in a more “volatile” form. We could frame this event in terms of the wider debate on the legitimacy of pirating and distributing copyrighted material, but it would be a mistake. The legitimacy of these practices is out of the question; what’s deserving of attention is the undeniable role of the Camorra (the undisputed leader of the global counterfeit market) in marketing a pirate copy of a film that denounces its atrocities. If we aspire to understand the Camorra (Saviano’s personal sacrifice should have taught us this, at the very least), any moral judgment is invalid: the only thing that counts is business, the extraordinary ability of this criminal organization to jump at every economic opportunity, even those linked to the popular movements which reveal and oppose its cruel ‘modus operandi’.