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Art & Activism

Mathias Jud: Art that lets you talk back to NSA spies

In 2013, the world learned that the NSA and its UK equivalent, GCHQ, routinely spied on the German government. Amid the outrage, artists Mathias Jud and Christoph Wachter thought: Well, if they're listening ... let's talk to them. With antennas mounted on the roof of the Swiss Embassy in Berlin's government district, they set up an open network that let the world send messages to US and UK spies listening nearby. It's one of three bold, often funny, and frankly subversive works detailed in this talk, which highlights the world's growing discontent with surveillance and closed networks.

The work of artists Mathias Jud and Christoph Wachter questions the limits of our communication possibilities and, therefore, of our identity.

Mathias Jud and Christoph Wachter combine the power of online collaboration with activism to produce their artistic vision.

In Berlin (where they live), they created an open mesh network in the government district, allowing citizens to send messages to the NSA and GCHQ, whose known listening posts are there. With their "Hotel Gelem" project, the duo commented on racism and exclusion by inviting visitors to stay in the homes of Roma families -- a culture familiar with the idea of displacement. And in Australia at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, the two created an installation which allowed visitors to interract with refugees detained in the country.

"We should start making our own connections, fighting for this idea of an equal and globally interconnected world," Jud says. "This is essential to overcome our speechlessness and the separation provoked by rival political forces."

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