Monuments are built, and monuments are toppled. In recent years, activists have asked the question who gets honored in monumental form. Most commonly, cities are adorned with statues of military generals, philanthropic merchants and well-connected politicians cast in bronze, concrete, marble and stone. Their towering figures offer an exclamation point in the urban body of what and whose history matters. So clearly the question must be, what about those who question power?
In 2015, three anonymous artists installed a bust of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden atop an empty Doric column in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn. Hours later the intervention was removed by NYC park officials. In their statement on the project, the artists claimed to have “updated” the monument in an effort to “highlight those that sacrifice their safety in the fight against modern-day tyrannies.”
Inspired by this guerilla act, artist Ahmet Öğüt collaborated with Artwrld to create a collection of digital monuments to lesser-known whistleblowers. Individuals who, often at tremendous personal sacrifice, exposed the fraud, malintent and wrongdoing of unfettered power; and who, more often than not, remain unrecognized for their acts of courage.
Among those honored in this collection are Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a former senior policy analyst at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who, during the 1990s, called out an American chemical company for exposing South African miners to toxic levels of vanadium; Filipina journalist Marlene Garcia-Esperat, who was murdered for her efforts to expose rampant fraud in the Phillipines’ Department of Agriculture; programmer, activist and entrepreneur, Aaron Swartz, who dedicated his life to creating an open, free Internet that allowed public access to knowledge and information; and Phillip Saviano, who worked with The Boston Globe to reveal the systemic, widespread nature of the Catholic church sexual abuse scandal; among others.
Monuments of the Disclosed is a collection of digital monuments that are made available as both 3D digital files and Augmented Reality experiences. In providing AR-ready digital sculptures, Öğüt invites the public to consider what it would be like to live and work in a world that celebrates such truth-tellers. In placing these sculptures in spots known and unknown, he’s inviting participants to ask, Why are there no monuments to whistleblowers?