Vast amounts of injustice are happening around the world, from the protests in Iran to the illegal invasion of Ukraine. During these times, freedom of speech is imperative, without retribution from governments and without fear of death or imprisonment. NoisyLeaks! takes on the case of WikiLeaks, the online platform that has exposed atrocities committed by various countries and organizations.
It is probably most well-known for the video in which US soldiers fire from a helicopter at civilians running away, as they jeer. This sickening scene is seared into our cultural memory, as is the subsequent exile and imprisonment of Julian Assange, who published the footage. In the NoisyLeaks! exhibition, 12 artists/collectives take on the topic of exposing secrets, with huge names on the bill, such as Ai Weiwei, Sarah Lucas and Hito Steyerl.
Iodine Dynamics – What Remains
As you enter the surprisingly intimate space of Projektraum 145, to the right is an 8-bit pixelated video game on an old-school television. In this interactive artwork, built for the 1986 Nintendo NES, your day starts like any other: skating around Sunny Peaks. However, after discovering a video game cartridge with encrypted files (very meta), you realize everyone you know is in jeopardy.
But as the tagline says: “no despair, your best friend is by your side… as well as a very helpful cat.” This captivating nugget of nostalgia is entitled What Remains by Iodine Dynamics and takes you on a journey of misinformation and whistleblowing.
Sarah Lucas – Did Someone Mention Totalitarianism?
Adjacent to this piece is a work by acclaimed feminist sculptor Sarah Lucas, whose work often incorporates the dark and humorous. Lucas’ work could seem out of place in this tech-driven, highly specific topic, but it transpired that she conceived the piece specifically for the exhibition.
In Did Someone Mention Totalitarianism? a hefty concrete boot crushes one of her tights sculptures, which protrudes like flesh from under the sole.
Challenge Power – Mapping a Persecution
In the second room, two works directly relate to WikiLeaks. The first is Mapping a Persecution by Challenge Power. It depicts a web of arrows and icons with Julian Assange at the centre. The spider diagram then spans out to politicians, persons, governments and organizations which all have stakes in the persecution of the WikiLeaks’ founder. Under the banner ‘journalism is not a crime’, the project intends to serve as a document base to empower everyone to become informed and take actions against the extradition of Assange
The Institute for Dissent & Datalove – WarCrimes-o-Matic
The second piece, WarCrimes-o-Matic by the Institute for Dissent & Datalove, contains a warning: pressing the red button may make you part of a “conspiracy”. If you choose to push the button, the green metal box will print classified information. Each piece is individual: some of them are concise, whilst others stream out like a malfunctioning receipt machine.
Overall, the exhibition becomes a moment to share knowledge and practical skills to disseminate information. In a time when despair could be so easy to lean into, NoisyLeaks! manages to interject humor and playfulness into the fight for freedom. Alongside the exhibition you’ll find talks, film screenings and workshops. The organizers are welcoming and are building a community because, after all, the voices of many are heard the loudest.