“Tear Down This Wall!” Internet Art Circumventing Censorship and Unveiling Secret Prisons

“Tear Down This Wall!”

Internet Art Circumventing Censorship and Unveiling Secret Prisons

Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Christoph Wachter and Mathias Jud are exploring the impact of different walls and borders within the context of their projects. Segregation is supposedly instituted to protect people from enemies who are either walled in or walled out. This segregation results in a limitation of our perspectives. It breeds divisions in society, language and culture, and makes us vulnerable to propaganda and paternalism. This impact of segregation is very evident in countries that have been divided – like Germany or Korea.

What do we think about the others beyond the borders? How can we become aware of the way that our surroundings influence our own view?

“A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably”
– Wittgenstein

We are formed by social conventions and values. Borders are not just barriers or obstacles, they can even be useful as a starting point for conceiving of our surroundings. They are hints to make us think beyond given power relations and to overcome them. Who could I be, if I had been born in another place?

In memory of the Mauerspechte (wall woodpeckers) – people who tore the first holes in the Berlin Wall – the artists named one of their projects picidae (Latin for woodpecker).

In this project, the Internet becomes simultaneously the medium and the object of exploration. picidae delivers clickable images of HTML web pages. The images circumvent censorship, as well as redirects, ranking, rating, and filtering. TRANSIT is participating in this project by hosting a pici-server: click on the image below to try out the pici server and see how it allows web users to circumvent censorship.

Circumvent Censorship. Test a pici server. Type in a URL (internet address), complete with http://www…. and compare the result with the html website.

Since its release in Fall 2007, picidae has been used in China, Iran, Dubai and North African countries to view web pages. In Europe, too, the project has become a touchstone in debates surrounding the increasing control and manipulation of the Internet, and as an art project it makes things visible in a new way.

With the project Zone*Interdite (French for “restricted military area”), Wachter and Jud revealed that there are things to discover even in hidden places, places considered to be shielded blind spots. Surprisingly, a propaganda picture released by the U.S. Defense Department became the first photographic proof of Camp Iguana, the secret children’s prison in Guantanamo.

However, it is not only people in prison who are denied access to global communication, but also groups who are alleged to be terrorists. Groups declared to be terrorists emerge in Wachter and Jud’s recent project “New Nations.” In the abduction of these alleged terrorists, we can discover the power structure behind the so called World Wide Web. We can overcome the division between friend and foe with “New Nations” in a new kind of network.

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