The art movements of minimalism, modernism, even post-modernism seem old these days.
That’s why some artists have turned to ‘Snowden art,’ that being artists who are producing art, performances, and art books inspired by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Even if ‘Snowden art’ isn’t officially a term yet in the dusty art theory books, these artists inspire the title. Just as crypto art welcomed the year of the cryptocalypse, there has been a flurry of Snowden-inspired street art, Snowden video games, a low-budget short film produced in Hong Kong which Snowden starred in, even Privacy, a Snowden-inspired play, hits the stage in London this spring. Contemporary art takes the lead with an experimental approach, as the work here delves into surveillance, encryption, and Wikileaks as the palette for boundary-pushing work. Some artists have had real-life brushes with Snowden himself. Proven truth? Keep reading, here is a selection of recent and forthcoming Snowden art, an art movement in the making.
The Swiss, Austrian and American net art pioneering art group Ubermorgen recently had an exhibition called u s e r u n f r i e n d l y at the Carroll Fletcher Gallery in London. Their show featured multi-media works around surveillance, censorship, newspeak and democracy, chilling us all with an Orwellian vibe. One piece called Do You Think That's Funny? (named from a question a journalist asked them), features encrypted Snowden Files surrounded by manuals, cables, and CCTV cameras. Instead of basing their claims upon fiction, the installation is built around encrypted data allegedly given to the collective by Snowden himself in a chance encounter with the whistleblower at the Vienna Airport (luckily, they knew airport staff). An excerpt of their Snowden interview is found here.
Merchandising for wikileaks? You bet. The Dutch design collective Metahaven has an upcoming book called Black Transparency: the Right to Know in the Age of Mass Surveillance coming out February 27 on Sternberg Press. The book begins with an inquiry into Wikileaks, who they say they have worked with. By hoping to define the internet from a local perspective, it’s a compilation of their visual work around transparency, written essays, and design. “A lot of the mass surveillance talks right now focus only on the immediate legal and technological implications, but it doesn't take into account that these developments are equally a part of global visual culture,” said the collective. “As designers, our work always functions on the borderline of aesthetics, politics, and speculation.” Next up, Metahaven are giving a keynote lecture on January 31 at the Transmediale digital art festival in Berlin.
German street artist Jörg Janzer has reclaimed his neighbourhood street corner. In the northern neighborhood of Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, the artist has glued up “Snowden Street” (“Snowdenstrasse” in German) at a popular intersection. Al Jazeera reported that Janzer is attempting to get Behrenstrasse, a street running south by the American Embassy in Berlin, to be renamed as Snowdenstrasse.
Snowden Street by Jörg Janzer
The Brooklyn-based street artist Poster Boy is known for his use of the razor towards creating satirical collages by cutting through ads to create his own message. This one piece found on the artist’s Flickr is a quick comment on the Snowden leaks (‘when it snows, it pours).