Edward Snowden’s Smashed Laptop Displayed at the V&A

Ai Weiwei, Portrait of Edward Snowden (2016). © Ai Weiwei
Lego-style portrait of Edward Snowden, created by Ai Weiwei for the 2016 Write for Rights campaign. © Ai Weiwei

The star exhibit of the V&A Museum’s next exhibition might surprise some. “All of this belongs to you,” set to open on April 1, 2015, will feature equipment used by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to store leaked high-security information.

It isn’t Snowden’s first brush with the art and entertainment industry. Laura Poitras’s documentary Citizenfour—which focuses on Snowden’s encounters with journalist Glenn Greenwald in Hong Kong in 2013—was a huge hit at the Oscars (see Edward Snowden Documentary Citizenfour by Art World Darling Laura Poitras Triumphs at the Oscars).

Snowden also made a cameo appearance in a video piece by the Austrian art collective Teamniel, entited I Told You (see Edward Snowden Makes Cameo in Austrian Collective’s Video).

His laptop and hard drive were destroyed by Guardian editors under pressure from the UK government’s secret services GCHQ, the British newspaper reports.

“It was purely a symbolic act,” said the Guardian deputy editor Paul Johnson. “We knew that. GCHQ knew that. And the government knew that.”

“It was the most surreal event I have witnessed in British journalism,” he added.

The smashed up equipment is to be exhibited as part of a display entitled “Ways to be secret,” exploring privacy in the digital world. It will also feature a USB condom, a selfie stick, and a Cyborg Unplug that detects and kicks surveillance devices from wireless networks.

The V&A is currently in conversation with the Guardian to establish whether Snowden’s equipment will enter its permanent collections or remain in the newspaper’s archive.


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