Protestors Use Holograms in Brooklyn and Madrid

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Edward Snowden hologram in Brooklyn's Fort Greene Park (photo: Kyle Depew, Illuminator Art Collective)

Demonstrators have found a high-tech way to stage protests and make statements that can circumvent laws and other government restrictions that bar such public displays or which could result in the arrest of the participants. The tool they are using to do this is hologram projection.


In New York City, a light projection group—the Illuminator Art Collective—lit up a hologram of whistleblower Edward Snowden atop a column in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. The likeness of the former National Security Agency contractor was projected to replace an actual four-foot-tall, 100-pound bust of Snowden that was taken down by authorities. The bust had been created by three anonymous artists who secretly fused it to a Revolutionary War monument in the park, the location selected for Snowden to rub sculpted shoulders with those of colonial rebels who fought for America’s independence. Within hours, members of the New York Parks Department and the NYPD threw a tarp over Snowden’s sculpted face and then removed the bust, which they described as “unapproved” and “illegal.”


The hologram group had heard about the sculpture and went to view it, but it was gone by the time they arrived. “We were never actually able to see the bust with our own eyes,” Illuminator member Kyle Depew told National Public Radio. “We were inspired to do what we do best, which is light projection to pay tribute to the work that these anonymous artists had done in creating the sculpture and to further the conversation, to further the story and the discussion about Edward Snowden.”


The Illuminators used projection mapping software to pinpoint the location for their hologram, which was in the park atop the same column that the Snowden bust had sat. The hologram remained on display for 20 minutes.


“To me it's about, if someone removes the statue, that the idea and the conversation can still take place, even though that material structure is gone,” added Illuminator Grayson Earle. “We just want people to know the spirit of Edward Snowden is alive and well if we want it to be.”


Use of holograms to voice mass opinion was also used in Spain, where members of the Hologramas para la Libertad projected a massive hologram of citizen protestors in front of the parliament in Madrid. The target of the protest was a new law adopted by the government that limits the rights of people to rally. Among other restrictions, the Citizen Safety Law makes it illegal to protest outside government buildings.


Opposition groups and the Spanish media have described Citizen Safety as a “gag law” that “restricts citizens’ liberties, and criminalizes their right to protest.” The Hologramas activists said they “saw the need to carry out a different kind of protest that would allow our demands to become unstoppable: the first hologram protest in history.”


Had demonstrators shown up in person to protest outside the parliament, they would have been fined $746,000, according to the new law’s provisions. The hologram enabled the protest to take place without placing individuals at risk of being arrested or fined.


The law also makes it a crime to insult, disrespect or photograph the police, or to refuse to show them identification. Fines for doing such things can be as high as $30,000. Eighty percent of Spaniards want to see the law softened or scrapped, according to a Metroscopia poll conducted in December.


“If you are a person you cannot express yourself freely,” said a woman in a Hologramas video. “You can only do that here if you become a hologram.”

-Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

An Edward Snowden Statue Was Replaced By A Hovering Snowden Image Last Night (by Sam Sanders, National Public Radio)

A Removed Snowden Sculpture Inspires a Hologram in Its Place (by Jim Dwyer, New York Times)

Protesters in Spain Stage First Ever 'Hologram March' against Gag Law (RT)

Spaniards Refuse to be Silenced Despite New Anti-Protest Law (by Ashoka Jegroo, Waging Nonviolence)


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