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Why the partial dismantling of PRISM is unnerving

Feb 3rd, 2014
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  1. Why the partial dismantling of "PRISM: The Beacon Frame" is unnerving
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  4. Danja Vasiliev and Julian Oliver's work "PRISM: The Beacon Frame", made and shown during Art Hack Day Berlin, was partially taken down on Friday Jan 31, 2014 after threats of reporting to the German Federal Police.
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  6. “PRISM: The Beacon Frame” is as visually stunning as it is technically audacious. It uses wireless interception to project device information through a prism onto the surrounding walls resulting in an impressive and ominous lightshow. People close to the installation receive eerie yet playful text messages. It raises questions around our exploitative relationship to critical infrastructure. As such, it was universally acclaimed by visitors to the exhibition.
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  8. In a certain light, it's ironic that a component of the installation be taken down since it merely re-articulates some of the core questions raised by the piece: Who controls our infrastructure? Why is certain technology the prerogative of those in power? How can we foster public debate around the ramifications of technological choices?
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  10. The threat of reporting to the police is equally ironic and sad. It's ironic because the work highlights the violations the German Parliament, next door to the exhibition hall and the epitome of power, has been exposed to. It's sad because the type of pseudo-"citizen's arrest" Danja and Julian were victims of is the hallmark of the faceless bureaucracy and tacit obedience on which many power structures rely. Furthermore, the threat brings back unpleasant memories of absurdly draconian penalties for 'computer'-related crimes, as was the case with Jeremy Hammond and the late Aaron Schwartz.
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  12. How can we encourage critical inquiry into our technologically mediated environment if not through works like “PRISM: The Beacon Frame”? Art Hack Day was initiated with the express purpose of providing a haven for hackers whose medium is art and artists whose medium is tech to express themselves to their fullest ability, much like Julian and Danja advocate in their Critical Engineering manifesto. The partial dismantling of “PRISM: The Beacon Frame” is therefore unnerving. It shows how much work remains before we can genuinely begin to examine the technological underpinnings of power, society and culture.
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  15. Olof Mathé, one of many Art Hack Day organizers
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