Anonymous artists placed a huge statue with the (very good) likeness of Edward Snowden at a war memorial in Brooklyn this week. The statue was promptly covered and warehoused by city workers. A real shame, since Edward Snowden is a hero to many.
This is an example of well-executed guerrilla art. It incites debate, calling into question who gets to be named a hero and by whom. And what is the true purpose of immortalizing people in monuments. A statement from the artists reads:
Fort Greene’s Prison Ship Martyrs Monument is a memorial to American POWs who lost their lives during the Revolutionary War. We have updated this monument to highlight those who sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies. 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. All too often, figures who strive to uphold these ideals have been cast as criminals rather than in bronze. Our goal is to bring a renewed vitality to the space and prompt even more visitors to ponder the sacrifices made for their freedoms. We hope this inspires them to reflect upon the responsibility we all bear to ensure our liberties exist long into the future.
The bust represents Snowden at his best: thoughtful and heroic, yet a regular Joe. Happily, The Illuminator Art Collective protested the bust of the bust by projecting a likeness of Snowden as a hologram, which is even more fitting to his role as a cybernetic whistleblower, eerily echoing the nebulous fate that has befallen a man who just wanted to let us know that the government was illegally spying on regular, law-abiding citizens.