John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
Graffiti and street artists around the world find their latest inspiration in the beleaguered NSA whistleblower.
Where in the world is Edward Snowden?
Indications point to his physical vessel cooling its heels in a Moscow airport, where it's waited for weeks for a friendly country to grant it asylum. But in spirit, the beleaguered NSA whistleblower is also on walls in London and France, lurking in the subway in New York City, flirting with stewardesses in Rochester, and present elsewhere around the world thanks to sympathetic graffiti artists and street hackers.
As R.J. Rushmore at Vandalog points out, the former NSA employee hasn't acquired the loads of artistic tributes enjoyed by other prominent leakers, like Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. The paucity of sprayed Snowdens might be because his act of sticking it to the U.S. government is still relatively new. It might also be due to the lack of photographic base material for artists to build upon: The media are stuck with that one clip from the Guardian that is getting recycled everywhere, unless they want to be silly and reference his anime-loving teen days.
But as his case drags on, you can expect to encounter more alleys and walls bearing his leaking likeness, and maybe even a few Halloween costumes come fall. Ready for a parade of Snowdens? Let's start with this one coolly gazing upon visitors to the Abode of Chaos, the home and graffiti-exposition garden of art-auction magnate Thierry Ehrmann in Avignon, France:
In Queens, New York:
One artist in Berlin created the "world's first Snowden Street" (which is not altogether true):
In the MTA tunnels of New York:
The following pieces don't count as street art, but show other directions creative types have taken with Snowden. This is the backdrop for an "emergency forum" at New York City's Cooper Union college in June:
The whistleblower has inspired quite an array of shirts, hats and bumper stickers on Cafe Press:
No idea what this means, but it's awesome: