Brit lights up Berlin with spies, lies and censorship art

British artist and anti-surveillance activist James Bridle is illuminating Germany with artwork exploring the darkest state secrets, cover-ups and information blackouts.

Bridle’s “The Glomar Response”, showing this month at the newly opened Nome gallery in Berlin, resonates in a country where revelations by former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden caused widespread outrage.

The 34-year-old artist, who exhibited in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum this year, named his first German solo show after the Cold War-era CIA rebuttal that it could “neither confirm nor deny” sensitive information leaked to a journalist. The exhibition is a mix of computer-generated prints, a looped film screening and collages of maps and classified documents.

“It symbolizes the way military technologies, espionage and surveillance have trickled down to all aspects of everyday life,” Bridle told Reuters.

“We’re operating in this unknown zone. You can now hear that response from your local council.”

Bridle unveiled his previously unseen Berlin work as news broke that Germany’s chief prosecutor had been investigating journalists on treason charges after they published plans to step up state surveillance of online communications.

The charges were eventually dropped. But the incident brought to the surface lingering German sensibilities over press freedom and surveillance, along with memories of the communist-era East German Stasi and the Nazi Gestapo.

In his series “Fraunhofer Lines”, blocks of color and shadow are set against heavily censored government reports, such as that by the U.S Senate into torture allegations at the base in Guantanamo Bay. In this fashion, Bridle explores the fraught relationship between states and whistleblowers.

“It’s the politics of light,” he said. “Who is permitted to see what, why and how? Documents are released, which is a metaphorical illumination. But then there are all these black spots, these redactions.”

Bridle’s mark is visible elsewhere in Berlin in the form of a life-size outline of a military attack drone chalked onto the concrete in the central Mitte district. With his “Drone Shadow”, he aims to shed light on the mysterious weapons.

“These weapons have a dark glamour to them, but are also resonant of so many things,” Bridle said. “When I first drew one to scale it clicked why they were so interesting: their physical and political invisibility.”

Bridle’s “The Glomar Response” runs at Nome Gallery, Berlin from July 24 to Sept 5.

(Editing by Michael Roddy and Digby Lidstone)

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