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Where in New York is Edward Snowden?

Two New York artists created an Edward Snowden bust and decided to mount the unsanctioned artwork in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. Soon after, the bust was unceremoniously taken down by the NYPD and the two were then sent on a wild goose chase to collect their work from the city.

By Rheaa Rao, Daniela Castro and Johanna Chisholm

In April 2015, an unsanctioned statue of Edward Snowden shook up New York City. It was installed by artists Jeff Greenspan and Andrew Tider on top of a war memorial pillar in Fort Green Park in Brooklyn. They installed it early in the morning when the park was closed and it was taken down and whisked away dramatically within a few hours. The artists wanted the statue to spark dialogue about surveillance, paranoia and the price of American freedom. But the state’s prompt removal of the statue made the dialogue spiral into an underground movement.

Jeff Greenspan (photo credit: jeffgreenspan.com)
Jeff Greenspan (credit: jeffgreenspan.com)

 

Andrew Tider (photo credit: twitter.com)
Andrew Tider (credit: Twitter)

Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn

Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn

Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn

“The other thing, I think, is kind of humorous is the removal of it. The way they did it was so keystone cops-ish. The state not only covered it up, but in doing so, in front of reporters, in front of cameras, used the eagle, which is a symbol of American freedom as a foothold and stepped on top of it. They put their booted foot on top of the eagle, to throw a blue tarp on Edward Snowden’s visage to represent transparency in government policy.”

The artists’ chat about the meaning of the removal of their art.

The erasure of public art is not unheard of, especially in New York. 5 Pointz, a public mural space was white washed before it was demolished in 2014. Tilted Arc, a government sanctioned piece of art, was considered intrusive  and was urinated on before it was taken down. But The Wall Street Bull, which was unsanctioned and illegal like the Snowden statue has been left for the public.

Installation and removal of art is not without its inconsistencies.

Postmaster’s Gallery, Manhattan

NYPD LIC Processing Property Plant

The Boiler in Williamsburg.

Cobble Hill, Brooklyn

Little Italy, Manhattan

What our lawyer Ron Kuby argued with his friends at the Department of corrections was, listen, you can’t selectively enforce this law. You’re not enforcing it on those people, you’re enforcing it on these guys because of their political beliefs, you can’t do that.

Andrew Tider

Artist

Inconsistent! We’re able to have this conversation with you because we are white! If we were black, putting a statue, in a park…

Jeff Greenspan

Artist

Howard Skrill’s sketch of the Edward Snowden bust

The Edward Snowden bust by Jeff and Andrew on display at the Brooklyn Museum.

Howard Skrill sketches the Edward Snowden bust at the Brooklyn Museum

Howard Skrill sketches the Edward Snowden bust with pastels and coloured pencils

Howard Skrill’s collection of coloured pencils that he used to sketch the bust.

The coloured pencils that Howard Skrill used to sketch the Edward Snowden bust

The statue travelled in more than one sense.  From being a satire on the creation and destruction of state sanctioned monuments, it now occupies a coveted spot in the Brooklyn Museum of Arts.