NEW YORK (AP) — Two activists who put a bust of Edward Snowden on a Revolutionary War memorial were ticketed and got their confiscated sculpture back Wednesday, saying they felt the episode had sparked conversation about freedom.
Jeff Greenspan and Andrew Tider had tried to stay anonymous after the 4-foot-tall, 100-pound likeness of the exiled National Security Agency secrets-leaker briefly appeared last month on a monument in a Brooklyn park.
But after the summonses made their names public record, they told The Associated Press they’d spent a year planning their unauthorized artistic statement, enlisted a sculptor to craft it and aimed to place Snowden’s disclosures of government surveillance in the context of revolutionary values of liberty.
“The ideal that Snowden seemed to be fighting for with his actions seemed to be in line with the ideals the revolutionaries, who might also have been called traitors, were fighting for,” Tider said by phone.
Police noted last month that the statue was erected without permission. Greenspan and Tider were issued summonses for being in a park after hours, a noncriminal violation.
Snowden is living in exile in Russia after divulging the confidential U.S. government collection of phone records, among other intelligence gathering. He faces charges in the U.S. that could land him in prison for up to 30 years.
So New Yorkers awoke to something of a mystery when a fiberglass-reinforced cement rendering of his face materialized early April 6 in Fort Greene Park, on a monument that honors American captives who died on British prison ships during the Revolutionary War. Parks officials quickly ordered the bust removed.
Greenspan and Tider realized that linking a war monument with an image of a man who disclosed American secrets might be seen as disrespectful, but they said they didn’t intend it to be. Los Angeles-based sculptor Doyle Trankina designed the piece to echo the memorial’s proportions, and they chose an adhesive that wouldn’t damage the memorial, they said.
They said they wanted to provide an alternative view of Snowden, whom they feel the media have vilified.
“We felt that was shortchanging the public because it wasn’t giving the public an opportunity to make up its own mind about its level of comfort with this level of surveillance,” Greenspan said.
Their lawyer, Ronald Kuby, called the sculpture’s return a reflection of the city’s “commitment to the arts, even those that are unusual and offbeat.”
The activists, both New Yorkers who work in creative fields, said they were considering seeking permission to exhibit the piece legally through a temporary art-in-parks program.
In the meantime, the Postmasters gallery has said it wants to display the statute at a show opening Friday.
Its theme: “Anonymity, no longer an option.”