Los Angeles-based street artist Xvala recently made national news when he pasted some posters in public featuring leaked photos of a naked Scarlett Johansson. Even though Johansson's lawyers have threatened Xvala with a cease and desist letter, the artist is citing artistic freedom and has made clear he plans to keep working with the leaked images. Some, like E! Online, are suggesting that this might be merely a publicity stunt. However, Melrose and Fairfax just got an exclusive interview with Xvala for the Huffington Post, where the artist explains his 'disruptive innovation,' his respect for 'users,' and how 'Googling' the image itself is a modern work of art.
1.) This piece is one in a series you have done about 'Fear Google.' What is the Fear Google campaign about?
Fear Google is partially the idea that technology is gaining momentum on our everyday activities. There is a growing inability to disconnect from the Internet and social networking, and in the post-PC era, we all are bytes of data. We exist as information, and all our information exist to be used and reused.
2.) What did the 'cease and desist' letter say? Did you respond to it?
I'm not personally involved in legalities. You will have to contact Cory Allen of CACA to answer this question.
3.) Is there any significance to Scarlett Johanson? Or does it have to do more with the fact that the photos were hacked?
I have been creating Google Paste for a while now, utilizing hacked celebrity photos. There have been many hacked photos that weren't interesting prior to the latest leaked photo of Scarlett, but her two photos were perfect based on the aftermath of her hiring lawyers and the comment being made of wanting to have all her photos removed... wanting them to disappear from the internet. That has been a focus of mine to disappear from the Internet... and seeing her statement, makes me feel that she stole my idea.
4.) Are you, as E suggested, trying to get arrested?
Well, for the record I did not hack or crack Scarlett Johanson photos. I found them on the Internet just as anyone can do for themselves.
I Googled it.
How I chose to use the Google search results should be viewed as a disruptive innovation. It's Post-PC art.
5.) This is clearly a well-thought-out piece, and you are taking a stance, and what is your goal that you would like to accomplish?
The actions of both Scarlett and hackers made it easy for me. I just had to create the art. Actions speak louder than words and we, government and society, continue to live and die by the internet.
6.) What are your thoughts on censorship? Because the photo is hacked, but the naked parts are still covered.
I don't believe in censorship, but do have a respect for 'users.' By changing the stolen photos they became new. My contribution to the leaked Scarlett Johanson photos was not intended as information suppression but to encode the photos with more relevant information. There are no retractions from the Internet. That's clearly the new picture that I have created.
7.) What can we expect from Xvala in the future?
I recently went dumpster diving in several top Silicon Valley founders' trash cans. Using content from these top tech company founders' trash cans I have created six sculptures representing each founder. I will announce these soon on CACA. The trash cans that I rummaged through belonged to Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jimmy Wales, and Jack Dorsey. These sculptures will look like Picasso line drawings coming to life.
Photos by Jennifer Leigh Strauss Photography.