On April 6, 2015, Andrew Tider and I fused a four-foot, 100 pound bust of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to a pillar within the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park, a memorial to POWs who lost their lives during the American Revolution.
We chose this location to draw parallels between those who fought for the ideals America was founded upon, and whistleblowers like Snowden. The mainstream media has long portrayed Snowden as a traitor. One could argue America was founded by traitors – rebels who turned against Britain’s tyrannical rule – whom we now consider heroes.
We worked with sculptor Doyle Trankina for nearly 6 months to create the piece. We intended to remain anonymous, but when we accepted summonses ($50 each for “being in the park after hours” – a civil offense, not criminal) in exchange for the bust being returned by the NYPD, our names became part of the public record.
Cover Up and Removal
Approximately 7 hours after installation, the NYC Parks Department set to work to remove the statue, but not before covering it with a tarp. It stayed covered for over an hour before it was removed.
“There now exists a video of a US government employee literally using the head of an american eagle [a symbol of America's freedom] as a foothold while throwing a tarp over the image of a man who is fighting for government transparency. If I saw this in the street, I’d assume it was a bunch of drama students doing street theatre, and roll my eyes at the heavy-handedness. You cannot write this shit.”
Reporters from Animal New York followed us during the install and broke the story.
“I can completely understand why people who feel strongly about privacy rights and freedom of speech would choose the memorial as a place to put up this statue. It was inappropriately done in a place that seems completely appropriate for what they’re trying to do.”
- Ruth Goldstein, Founder of the Fort Greene Park Conservancy
Release from NYPD
World famous civil rights attorney Ron Kuby stepped forward to represent us and successfully demanded the bust be released from NYPD custody. Read his (entertaining) demand to NYC Police Commissioner Bratton.
As soon as the bust was released we lent it to the Postmasters Gallery in NYC (voted best NYC gallery in 2014 by The Village Voice) to be included in a surveillance-themed group show entitled “Anonymity, no longer an option.” Fitting title, as our identities had just been uncovered by the press.
The gallery built a 9-foot plinth, bringing the bust to the same height as when it was installed. Amazing job, especially given how little time they had – we got the bust back only a day before the show’s opening.
L to R: Andrew Tider, Jesse Snyder, Judah Dadone, Me, Miles Pittman, Doyle Trankina (Jess, Judah, and Miles assisted with the install at Fort Greene Park).
3D Printing File
Andrew Tider and me with “Snowden” before installation.
This project owes special thanks to: Clarina Bezzola, Geoffrey Croft, Judah Dadone, Matthew Epler, Ron Kuby, Jeremy Levenbach, Nick McKinney, Jes Pepe. Miles Pittman, Brian Ries, Magda Sawon, Jason Shelowitz, Jesse Snyder, and Bucky Turco.
“The Whistleblower, Gone But Not Quite Forgotten” - New York Times
“Edward Snowden Bust Planted, then Removed from Brooklyn Park” - The Brooklyn Paper
“Statue that Cast Edward Snowden as a Hero Removed and Held by New York Police” - Sydney Morning Herald
“A Removed Snowden Sculpture Inspires a Hologram in Its Place” - New York Times
“Head Games! Snowden Bust Artists Demand Statue Back” - The Brooklyn Paper
“Artists to NYPD: Return Edward Snowden Bust We Put in Park” - New York Times
“Edward Snowden Bust Artists Recover Sculpture From the City” - New York Daily News
“Illicit Edward Snowden Bust Emerges From Protective Custody” - Gothamist
“Activists Ticketed for Putting Snowden Bust on NYC Monument” - New York Times - Animal
“At a Surveillance-Themed Art Fair, Snowden Bust Is the Star” - Hyperallergic