• Germany's news in English
 

Pixelhead - the ultimate in anonymous?

Published: 23 Aug 2012 12:35 GMT+02:00

Pixelhead – disturbing to wear when looking in a mirror – is designed to raise questions about anonymity and when and how we give that up, whether voluntarily on social networks, or involuntarily via street cameras.

Backes, a digital media artist among many other things, says he has created “media camouflage for the internet age" and a solution for people “sick of photos on sites like Facebook or worried about showing up on Streetview.”

It is based on a photograph of Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich, a sideways poke at the man responsible for keeping an eye on Germany.

The balaclava does not only hide the wearer’s face – it specifically shows up that disguise in the most modernist fashion.

Friedrich’s features are long gone, thanks to Backes spending the past year and a half “pixellating my ass off” to make the balaclava as realistic as possible, he said.

“It's supposed to put across the message that you should be aware of what you are doing on the internet,” said Backes.

Walking is publishing

It is also a response to a term used by many digital artists at the moment, “walking is publishing”, meaning wherever a person is and whatever they are doing, cameras may well be watching.

“I tried to think of a way to best convey this, and came up with Pixelhead,” said Backes. “It isn't meant to be an educational piece, but it is a statement about privacy.”

Even if it is a shouted kind of anonymity, the balaclava does hide the wearer, whether it is worn during a political protest, while dashing to meet an illicit lover or holding up a bank.

Many have also dubbed the mask creepy, something Backes rejects.

“I don't think it's creepy though, why would it be creepy?” he said, gesturing to an unfinished Pixelhead splayed out across a table, wood peeping through the eye slits.

Which is creepier - Pixelhead or Facebook?

Perhaps the really creepy aspect is what it has been created to represent - the reign of Facebook, Twitter and Google and how they are changing the idea of privacy, 34-year-old Backes suggested.

“Anonymity is harder, surveillance is increasing and although things like having a smart phone and the internet is great, people do need to know the downsides.”

And this would mean more than Family Minister Kristina Schröder's “Facebook lessons” idea, he added. Really teaching people the cons of the web requires more than that - and more than just a statement mask.

Backes, who grew up in Bavaria but moved to Berlin to go to art school, is making just 333 Pixelheads. Each one is hand stitched and the final design, which went on display in Berlin earlier this month has attracted considerable media interest.

“It was even on a couple of soldier blogs, which I found funny because I never would have thought of that,” said Backes. One army blog discussed its possible use as camouflage but rejected the idea as too odd.

Pulling on the balaclava feels like slipping behind a screen. “Will you use this photo as your Facebook profile picture?” Backes asked.

“Absolutely not,” I reply, but then begin to wonder exactly how much of me there already was on the internet.

Jessica Ware

jessica.ware@thelocal.com

twitter.com/jesscware

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:51 August 23, 2012 by catjones
I worry more about pop-up ads in double underlined words.
15:46 August 24, 2012 by dprader
Where do I get one? Looks cool. Love to be able to purchase one.
16:44 August 29, 2012 by sally#
Pixelhead is somehow creepy.But as Backes said, it is a statement about privacy.While we are enjoying the convenience of Internet, camera and mobile phones, we are actually giving our preious privicy out.
08:26 August 31, 2012 by Sooney
What - too much
10:07 September 3, 2012 by smilingjack
is it illegal?

since finding out in august this year that the australian government had purchased software from the USA that was also running CIA facial recognition software and was being used in millions of security cameras around the country I am considering wearing a mask.

with microsoft as of this month able to access your machine and look at your emails, videos, music and keystrokes "for safety and privacy"??? and apple and google monitoring your every step I think we should all be concerned.

I was looking at tracing my ancestry recently and so looked at those online dna tracers - assured of my security as they would never let a third part get access to the information. then I found out google had been buying up the companies. nice - google now has access to millions of peoples dna. why??
18:01 September 3, 2012 by Julia Gloome
Not only Microsoft but America in general has become a monster.

We should boycott all American products to bring down its regime. Buy V W instead of Ford, Nestle or Lavazza instead of Starbuck, Seibel or Docs instead of Red Wing, fly Lufthansa instead of United. Use free Knoppix instead of Windows, use free OpenOffice instead of Word, buy Samsung or Nokia instead of Apple. And so on.
03:44 September 10, 2012 by coffeelover
@smilingjack,,,facial recognition software was developed in the U,K,, or England, or Great Britain, possibly Australia, since they are all related, not U.S. However, u r correct about google, a monster if there ever was one. Microsoft I am not worried about at all, since I have only bought microsoft puters since, well, ever. I have never banked online, or "social networked" either, I cannot stop people from googling me, therefore my real name will pop up, but not much more.
Today's headlines
Alps plane crash
Video 'shows crash final moments'
A recovery worker at the crash site. Photo: DPA

Video 'shows crash final moments'

German tabloid Bild and French magazine Paris match revealed on Tuesday that their reporters had seen video from inside Germanwings flight 4U9525 in the final moments before the plane crashed. READ  

Arsonists hit pro-refugee art project
The burnt ruins of the art project. Photo: DPA

Arsonists hit pro-refugee art project

An art installation dedicated to refugees was burnt down in Berlin early on Tuesday, with police suspecting it to be an arson attack. READ  

Hurricane Niklas
Storm Niklas kills at least three, stops trains
This train in Lower Saxony had to stop after striking a fallen tree. Photo: DPA

Storm Niklas kills at least three, stops trains

Hurricane “Niklas” has reportedly claimed three victims, while trains have been cancelled across Germany as the storm rages. READ  

Stuttgart worst city for traffic jams
Photo: DPA

Stuttgart worst city for traffic jams

GPS company TomTom released data on Tuesday showing which cities have the worst traffic problems. The conclusion: Stuttgart is Germany's worst city for commuters. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Lufthansa cancels 60th jubilee celebration
Photo: DPA

Lufthansa cancels 60th jubilee celebration

Germany's national airline Lufthansa announced on Tuesday that it would cancel celebrations for the 60th anniversary of its founding in 1955. READ  

Alps Plane Crash
Doctors warn against snap crash reaction

Doctors warn against snap crash reaction

The president of Germany's Council of Psychotherapists said on Tuesday that there was no reason why the country should loosen its rules on doctor-patient confidentiality in the wake of the Germanwings crash. READ  

Merkel urges Germans: Give Greece a chance
Chancellor Merkel speaking in Helsinki. Photo: DPA

Merkel urges Germans: Give Greece a chance

On a visit to Helsinki on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel showed a patient side to the German government as the Eurozone continues to wait for a new list of economic reforms from Greece. READ  

Unemployment at new post-unification low
Photo: DPA

Unemployment at new post-unification low

German unemployment fell in March to the lowest level since the country reunited in 1990 as growth in Europe's biggest economy continues to pick up, official data showed on Tuesday. READ  

Trabi project aims to electrify 'Ostalgia'
A Trabant being converted into an E-car. Photo: DPA

Trabi project aims to electrify 'Ostalgia'

Its chuntering motor and belching exhaust once heralded the coming of the communist utopia. Now the east German 'Trabi' is leading a new revolution, and this time you won't hear it coming. READ  

Gun maker denies problems with army rifles
A German soldier aims a G36 rifle. Photo: DPA

Gun maker denies problems with army rifles

Update: Weapons manufacturer Heckler & Koch denied on Monday evening that the G36 rifles it supplied to the Bundeswehr (German army) lose their accuracy when they are too hot. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Can the 'nightmare' of a pilot downing a plane be prevented?
National
LIVE: Co-pilot suspected of crashing plane
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
National
Last-minute drama of Germany's Eurovision 2015 entry
National
German photographer takes world's top prize
Features
Meet the woman getting Germans to drink more – and better – beer
Gallery
Get inspired for International Women's Day with German heroes
Sponsored Article
Expert US tax preparation for Americans in Germany
Green party proposes first-ever cannabis legalization plan
Gallery
In pictures: Germany's seven most livable cities
National
Singapore canes Germans for train graffiti
Politics
Surprise! Germans love feeling like they run the EU
Politics
Anger over plan to show women what men earn
Travel
Munich tram fans bicker over new bell
Features
Kafka: puzzling translators 100 years on
Business & Money
France or Germany: Which country really is the best country to work in?
Photo: Police
Rhineland
Student driver crashes tank into family garden.
Photo: DPA
Politics
There was a notable absence at the Anti-Semitism Commission
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Take a cute break with this gallery of baby animals
International
What's keeping UK expats from voting?
Photo: DPA
National
Terror alert at a new high. Should you be worried?
Gallery
The best regional foods TTIP opponents want to protect
Photo: DPA
Features
All you ever needed to know about Pegida
Photo: Shutterstock
Culture
This cosplayer did not think his plan through
National
Europe in statistics - from Spain to Sweden
Gallery
Top 12 German idioms
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

7,090
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd