0,000627 Megapixel — Citizen to be seen from mars

If Luther’s Reformation was made possible by the then “fast” medium of printing, Edward Snowden with his globally publicized revelations managed to beat digital technologies predominant in his own time with their own weapons. Both “whistleblowers” aimed at the disclosure of systemic injustice. Lucas Cranach’s portrait of Luther is widely considered to be an iconic image that has come to stand for Reformation, Snowden’s globally circulated likeness stands for the personified resistance against rampant digital surveillance practices.

For the exhibition Luther and the Avant-Garde, the analog reconstruction of a digital image structure has been created to form a large-scale mosaic consisting of 672 square floor panels. While the image remains unrecognizable as long as one tries to see it from ground level, it can, from aerial and satellite perspectives, be discerned as the pixelated portrait of Edward Snowden. The 672 “picture elements” — each is enlarged to cover a square shape of 50 x 50 cm, the whole structure measuring 12 x 14 meters — correspond to a digital photographic resolution of no more than 0.000672 megapixels. The floor piece which appears to have no geometrical orientation to its surroundings is actually along a north-south axis, so it will appear at right angles with the grid of virtual maps. In its analog low-tech format, the picture of the “persona non grata” will not be recognized by digital filters, but will still be channeled into the data pools of virtual globes such as Google Earth or Apple Maps, who will then spread these data worldwide.

The parasitic appropriation of distribution processes as well as the reversal of the photographic apparatus correspond to methods of artistic misuse developed in dialog with different new media. In today’s democratic societies, “whistleblowers” have come to represent an important regulative factor. Digital miniaturization renders covert operations possible that may or may not be executed in violation of existing democratic prerogatives. This can be implemented quite unabashedly as the people acting in this way can do their work in a largely undisturbed fashion. Being able to uncover racketeering of these dimensions is mostly only an insider or expert option. In the digital age, decisive cultural shifts for a thoroughly engineered society are no longer triggered — as in previous centuries – by theologians, humanities scholars, artists or politicians. Today, these changes are especially initiated by engineers — since they tend to be part of those few individuals (at least in part) capable of analyzing complex occurrences. In the future, “whistleblowing” will become even more meaningful.

Potentates everywhere will have to reckon with this as a threat to their power. Today as much as any other time, people willing to pay a steep price for the defense of humanistic values are desperately needed. Through this enlarged and pixelated portrait “icon”, Edward Snowden will, at least digitally and virtually — be able to return to America — after the next Google Earth or Apple Maps update, in which he will become visible.


Floor piece, 12 x 14 meters, 672 concrete pavers, each 50 x 50 cm, 2017

Generously sponsered by Metten Stein+Desing: https://www.metten.de