For a few brief hours on Monday, New Yorkers could catch a glimpse of Edward Snowden on American soil. Not the man, but a 4-foot bust sculpted to resemble the famed whistleblower, and placed atop a Revolutionary War Memorial in Fort Greene Park.No one can erase the voice of the people.
— The Illuminator (@illuminator99) April 7, 2015
"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," the anonymous artists told Animal Magazine.
Crowds gathered, but it wasn’t long before the statue was removed by the authorities.
— Rainbow Broadband (@RainbowBroadban) April 7, 2015
But after nightfall, a separate group of artists, calling themselves The Illuminator, projected a duplicate of the Snowden statue against a cloud of dust over the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument.
"Inspired by the actions of these anonymous artists, The Illuminator Art Collective recreated the intervention ephemerally by projecting an image of the sculpture into a cloud of smoke," group member Kyle Depew told Gothamist. "Our feeling is that while the State may remove any material artifacts that speak in defiance against incumbent authoritarianism, the acts of resistance remain in the public consciousness. And it is in sharing that act of defiance that hope resides."
The Illuminator has mastered the concept of projection graffiti. Their mission: "To smash the myths of the information industry and allow people to find out for themselves what the 99% movement is fighting for."
In the past, the group has used the technique to support a variety of causes. They’ve projected the words "Safe Refineries Save Lives" against a large gasoline storage container. Outside the American Economic Association Conference, they projected the question, "Is economic growth killing the planet?" And in December the group cast the plea, "Save the Arctic," across the front of an Anchorage hotel.
— The Illuminator (@illuminator99) December 12, 2014
Expressing their support for Edward Snowden seems like a natural fit.
During his time as a defense contractor with the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden revealed the overwhelming scope of the government’s domestic spying apparatus. He is currently avoiding US extradition in Russia.
The message behind these holograms is simple. While the authorities may be able to remove physical, tangible reminders of injustice, they can never take away the spirit of an idea.