Statue of Edward Snowden
|Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument 2.0|
|Artist||Sculptor Doyle Trankina; Andrew Tider, Jeff Greenspan|
|Completion date||April 6, 2015|
The statue of Edward Snowden, called Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument 2.0 by its creators, was an ephemeral, illegally installed public statue of Edward Snowden, an American whistleblower who leaked classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) and was charged with federal crimes as a result.[A] The bronze-like statue was placed in Fort Greene Park in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York City, on April 6, 2015. It was attached to a Doric column on the perimeter of the park's Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument,[B] a memorial and crypt which honors and inters the more than 11,500 American prisoners of war who died in the American Revolution while housed on British prison ships.[C]
Affixed atop an existing column, the statue was mounted by three anonymous artists and their helpers, who were dressed in white construction helmets and reflective vests in imitation of Parks Department workers, early in the morning of April 6, then covered and taken down by NYC Parks officials later that day. A hologram tribute to Snowden was subsequently installed after the statue was removed.
Development and design
The piece was conceived in 2014 by two artists from New York City and a sculptor from the West Coast. The sculptor volunteered his time and skill in creating the statue, with the piece eventually costing thousands of dollars to create over six months.[D] The artwork consisted of a 4-foot (1.2 m) high, 100-pound (45 kg) bust of Snowden on top of a Doric column, with a Plexiglas stand with Snowden's name on it.
The piece was fused to Fort Greene Park's Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument in the pre-dawn hours of April 6, 2015. The sculptor recommended that the two artists create a bust after they had suggested a life-size statue of Snowden. The bust was made from Hydrocal, a plaster-like substance resembling bronze in appearance, which was then fixed to the pre-existing column with a non-damaging adhesive. The piece was designed to be similar in style to other sculptures in the park.[E]
While it was very important to the artists that the piece be more than just a prop or papier-mache effigy, they also wished not to damage the surface to which the bust would be bound. After some debate, they decided on an adhesive that would firmly hold the head in place, yet could be removed without marring the monument. The statue had Snowden's name at its base, consistent with the names on the bases of other sculptures in the park.
The Guardian newspaper expressed the view that the statue also looked like the former White House press secretary Jay Carney and some people thought it looked more like him than it did Snowden.
Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument 2.0 is one of at least six sculptures and monuments to Snowden that have appeared around the world.[F] In October 2014, a statue of Snowden appeared in Union Square, Manhattan, near Henry Kirke Brown's Abraham Lincoln statue. It was shown in conjunction with the Art in Odd Places festival and was sculpted by Jim Dessicino, a Delaware artist. One of the statue's observers compared Snowden to Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times.[G]
The creators of the statue, who were dubbed "guerrilla artists" by some in the media, released a statement to the Animal New York website detailing their motivations and documenting the statue's installation in exchange for anonymity.[H] In their statement, the artists said:
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.
While anticipating the sculpture's probable demise,[J] the creators told Mashable on April 6, 2015 that they "hope New York will embrace and protect this piece, much as when the Wall Street Bull was granted a permanent public home after its guerrilla placement. Even though it's already on it's [sic] way towards being removed,[K] the possibility exists for the city to make the piece available for public viewing in a sanctioned way."
Removal and aftermath
Some characterized the placement of Snowden's statue as an act of vandalism in support of a "traitor," while others disagreed.[L] The statue was up for only 12 to 13 hours before it was covered by blue tarpaulin and bound with rope at 12:30 pm on April 6, 2015, almost immediately after an official discovered it, then taken down an hour later. Calling it an "art prank", investigators from the New York City Police Department's Intelligence Division reportedly gathered DNA and examining other evidence in an attempt to determine the identity of the artist or artists. According to a spokesperson for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, "[t]he erection of any unapproved structure or artwork in a city park is illegal." Some passersby were annoyed at the covering of the statue, however.[M]
Hours after the statue was removed, a group of New York artists calling themselves The Illuminator Art Collective—unrelated to the three artists who created the statue—used smoke and projection equipment to create an ephemeral "hologram" image of Snowden in place of the missing sculpture. This projection included Snowden's face above one of the pillars, as well as "Snowden" in white letters at the bottom of the pillar. Collective artists said, "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."[N] The original artists said they were "touched" to see their bust and nameplate "reinstalled" with the use of light, adding that they were "surprised to see the way the statue was covered up before its removal, as though it were a profane statement."
New York City has had a number of pieces of street art, like the Charging Bull, which have become cultural icons and tourist attractions. It is uncertain whether this unsanctioned statue of Edward Snowden, considered just as valuable a work of art by some, will escape destruction. An online petition seeks the return of the statue to the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument.
The New York Daily News reported on April 14, 2015, that Ron Kuby, a lawyer representing the unidentified artists, had asked New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to return the statue to its creators. Kuby stated, "The statue itself is not contraband. Whatever the right of the Parks Department to remove an unauthorized sculpture, that does not translate into the right of the police to indefinitely detain a work of art." The artists planned to submit an application for authorized public display, and a Manhattan art gallery also expressed interest in exhibiting the Snowden sculpture.
Return of sculpture
After negotiations with the artists' attorney, the city returned the sculpture on May 6, 2015, assessing each artist a $50 fine for non-criminal trespassing due to their having illegally entered Fort Greene Park at night. Ron Kuby promised his clients' fines would be "promptly paid", and expressed gratitude that potential removal and storage fees for the sculpture were waived. A police summons identified the artists as Andrew Tider and Jeff Greenspan.
The undamaged bust had its first post-police custody exhibition from May 8–17 at The Boiler in Brooklyn, in a show titled anonymity, no longer an option. The artists were reportedly applying to have the sculpture legally exhibited by New York City through the city's "Art in the Parks" program: "This time they're dotting their i's and crossing their t's," Kuby said.
- Snowden "leaked thousands of classified National Security Agency documents that exposed mass surveillance by the government" and was charged with violation of the Espionage Act. In 2013, he received asylum in Russia.
- The Snowden sculpture was attached to an ancillary pillar—a smaller, peripheral Doric column on the corners of the Monument—and not to the central 149 feet (45 m) column that includes the crypt.
- The monument's dedication plaque estimates that 11,500 prisoners of war died in the prison ships, but others estimate the casualty count as high as 18,000.
- "It's easily a 30 grand project... If it were bronze, it could be a $100,000 piece of artwork, maybe more."
- Both design and color "expertly match[ed]" the existing motif and sculptures "from its bronze patina finish to Snowden's hair—which mimics the texture of the feather on the eagle." The lettering for Snowden's name was "befitting of a monument."
- Another such sculpture is the hologram that replaced this statue after its removal (see "Aftermath" section).
- Although the statue went unrecognized by most passersby, one opined: "He's our generation's Daniel Ellsberg ... What he did needed to be done."
- "The artists, with the condition that they wouldn't be identified, allowed Animal New York to tag along and film the covert installation of what they call 'Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument 2.0.'"
- "It gives the whole thing so much more meaning," they told Mashable. "It's not just about Snowden. It's about the ideals that he was trying to work towards and push others to care about."
- "The artists are fully aware of the bust's inevitable destruction and have left themselves a few options, including one that involves deploying an army of mini-Snowden heads. 'We have a full size mold that can be poured again and its been 3D rendered, so we have the ability to print smaller ones at scale,' they said."
- The statue had been removed at 1:30 pm on April 6, 2015, so the Mashable interview was probably conducted before then.
- "But while the dance of discord played out by the activist artists and park officials may have amused local spectators, it is representative of a divide within American society: the split between those who view Snowden as a national hero and those who believe he is a traitor." "'Vandalized?', some Fort Greene Focus readers asked, incredulously... 'Vandalized' awesomely, you mean,' joked reader Jeremy Friedman. 'I think it's in the same vein as Banksy—art not vandalism—and Pussy Riot, protesting against a government,' said Ed Goldman, a resident and member of Fort Greene Peace. 'It seems to me that great art was usually not sanctioned by stakeholders and not considered appropriate, either in content, style or placement. Many of the great artists of the 19th and 20th century were considered practically heretics.'"
- "Pedestrians... – a mix of dogwalkers, skateboarders, joggers and Fort Greene locals enjoying a day off – mostly expressed bemusement and irritation that the city had covered the column. One man wandered by to ask: 'When's the unveiling?' A dogwalker ... said she thought the covering up ironic, considering Snowden's actions. 'I think he's actually upholding our values, what we believe in.' Others said they liked the art. 'It's all about exposure, right? They should uncover the tarp,' said Julia."
- The Snowden Hologram was intended to maintain the message and express solidarity with the unknown artists "who installed the now-expunged statue."
- Turco, Bucky (April 6, 2015). "There's a massive illicit bust of Edward Snowden stuck to a war monument in Brooklyn". Animal New York.com. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Yuhas, Alan (April 6, 2015). "Busted: Edward Snowden statue prompts cover-up at Brooklyn park". The Guardian. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Alcindor, Yamiche (April 6, 2015). "Edward Snowden statue illegally placed in NYC park". USA Today. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Ries, Brian (April 6, 2015). "NYC officials remove Edward Snowden statue secretly installed in Brooklyn park". Mashable. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- Burrows, Edwin G. (2011). "The Prisoners of New York". Long Island History Journal. 22 (2).
- Chelsia Rose Marcius and Rich Schapiro (April 14, 2015). "Artists behind Edward Snowden statue want NYPD to give it back". New York Daily News. Retrieved April 14, 2015.
- "Edward Snowden statue surfaces in NYC park". The Hindu. New York. 7 April 2015. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- Sanders, Sam (7 April 2015). "An Edward Snowden Statue Was Replaced By A Hovering Snowden Image Last Night". National Public Radio. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
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- Young, Michelle (April 8, 2015). "6 Edward Snowden Statues and Monuments in NYC and Around the World". Untapped Cities. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- Jacobs, Harrison (10 October 2014). "There Is An Edward Snowden Statue In New York City, But Hardly Anyone Recognizes Him". Business Insider. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Kearney, Laila (April 6, 2015). "Guerrilla artists leave Snowden statue in New York park". Reuters. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
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- Matthias, Christopher (April 6, 2015). "The NYPD Is Investigating This Giant Bust Of Edward Snowden Erected In A Brooklyn Park". Huffington Post. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- "Snowden cover-up: Unauthorized bust in Brooklyn becomes martyr to cause". Russia Today. April 6, 2015. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Mai-Duc, Christine (April 6, 2015). "Edward Snowden statue appears in Brooklyn park, is quickly removed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 6, 2015.
- Associated Press; Daily Mail Reporter (6 April 2015). "Busted! Guerrilla artists sneak giant sculpture of Edward Snowden's head into Brooklyn park only to have it pulled down hours later by city workers". Daily Mail. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Government Surveillance (HBO). YouTube. April 5, 2015.
- Hastings, Max (7 April 2015). "Snowden's clearly an anarchist and traitor. Those who endorse him are just as dangerous". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- Maza, Cristina (7 April 2015). "Snowden statue points to divide in US society: Is he hero or traitor? (+video)". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- Chin, Heather (7 April 2015). "Art, Protest, And History: Residents React To Snowden Bust's Removal From Prison Ship Martyrs Monument". Fort Greene Focus. Retrieved 8 April 2015.
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- "Bust of Edward Snowden sneaked into New York park; officials remove it shortly after arrival". Fox News/Associated Press. April 6, 2015. Retrieved April 8, 2015.
- Ries, Brian (April 7, 2015). "Hologram replaces Edward Snowden statue in Brooklyn park". Mashable. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
- Fishbein, Rebecca; Depew, Kyle, Photographer (April 7, 2015). "Illicit Edward Snowden Statue Replaced By Illicit Edward Snowden Hologram". Gothamist. Archived from the original on April 8, 2015. Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- Durante, Dianne (February 2007). Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide. NYU Press. p. 302. ISBN 978-0-8147-1987-9.
- Nosowitz, Dan (7 April 2015). "Wall Street's Bull Statue was once like Edward Snowden's Sculpture: Totally illegal". Atlas Obscura. atlasobscura.com. Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- Azpiri, Jon (8 April 2015). "Artists create Edward Snowden hologram after statue removed from Brooklyn park". Global News. Brooklyn. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
- Gregorian, Dareh (May 6, 2015). "Edward Snowden bust artists recover sculpture from the city". New York Daily News. Retrieved May 8, 2015.
- Greenberg, Andy (May 8, 2015). "Now you can 3-D print your own copy of NYC's illegal Snowden bust". Wired. Retrieved May 17, 2015.
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- "Illicit Edward Snowden Bust Emerges From Protective Custody". Gothamist. May 6, 2015. Archived from the original on May 8, 2015. Retrieved May 9, 2015.
- Cascone, Sarah (January 13, 2016). "Exhibitions: Confiscated Edward Snowden Bust to Resurface at Brooklyn Museum". artnet. Retrieved October 30, 2017.
A guerrilla artwork gets an institutional stamp of approval.