Guerrilla Artists Celebrate Whistle-Blowers with Edward Snowden Statue
A bust of Snowden snuck into a Brooklyn war memorial.
A trio of artists erected a short-lived monument to whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. Snowden, a government contractor, revealed extensive surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. It was incorporated into the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument, a memorial to the 11,000 American soldiers who died imprisoned on British ships during the Revolutionary War.
The four-foot-tall, 100-pound sculpture was promptly removed by the Parks Department. The Huffington Post reports that a police investigation is under way.
The anonymous artists, who dressed up in official-looking reflective gear to carry out the predawn stunt, told Mashable that they see Snowden “as a continuation of a story that began at the beginning of this country” of fighting against tyranny. “It is built upon a set of ideals to live freely, not be confined or surveilled or monitored by your government. You can’t have freedom of expression to pursue liberty if you feel like you’re doing it under a watchful eye.”
“It would be a dishonor to those memorialized here to not laud those who protect the ideals they fought for, as Edward Snowden has by bringing the NSA’s 4th-Amendment-violating surveillance programs to light,” they added in a statement published on Animal New York. “All too often, figures who strive to uphold these ideals have been cast as criminals rather than in bronze.” Snowden is currently living in exile in Moscow, a fugitive from American authorities.
The artists point out that like the American revolutionaries memorialized in Fort Greene Park, Snowden may one day be honored as a hero and patriot.
Although the Snowden statue is made from a plaster-like material, it is finished in a convincing-looking bronze patina, and was installed on one of the monument’s columns, with authentic-looking lettering below bearing his name. Unlike other some other unauthorized public artworks (see Horny Satan Statue Causes Panic, Confusion in Canada), this one was so convincing that park goers didn’t even notice the new addition to the monument, according to Animal.
One of the city’s more iconic public artworks, Wall Street’s Charging Bull, actually began its life as a guerrilla art piece, installed by sculptor Arturo Di Modica without permission during an under-five-minute break in a night watchman’s rounds (see Wall Street’s Bronze Bull Celebrates 25th Anniversary). It seems unlikely, however, that the Snowden statue will ever be sanctioned by the city.
The Snowden bust isn’t the first artwork depicting the whistle-blower to grace the city’s streets. In October, University of Delaware graduate student Jim Dessicino brought a 10-foot-tall statue of Snowden to Union Square as part of “FREE,” the 10th annual Art in Odd Places public art festival (see Did You See New York’s Short-Lived Edward Snowden Statue?).
Citizenfour, a documentary devoted to Snowden, won the best documentary Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards (see Edward Snowden Documentary Citizenfour by Art World Darling Laura Poitras Triumphs at the Oscars). London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is currently displaying Snowden’s smashed laptop (see Edward Snowden’s Smashed Laptop Displayed at the V&A). He’s also made a cameo appearance in I Told You, a video work by the Austrian art collective Teamniel (see Edward Snowden Makes Cameo in Austrian Collective’s Video).
UPDATE: In response to the Park Department’s removal of the statue, the Occupy Wall Street Illuminator arrived on the scene in Fort Greene Park last night, projecting a hologram of Snowden’s face above the monument onto a cloud of smoke.
The Illuminator collective’s previous actions include projections at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Guggenheim Museum (see NYPD Detains Activists for Anti-Koch Light Graffiti at the Met and Guggenheim Museum’s Façade Occupied by Protesters’ Projection).
For more artnet News coverage of unconventional public statues, see:
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.