• Germany's news in English
 
Pixelhead - the ultimate in anonymous?
Photo: Jessica Ware

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
German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn
Photo: DPA

German bank sues Ecclestone for €345mn

German bank BayernLB is seeking €345 million ($423 million) in a lawsuit against Formula One magnate Bernie Ecclestone over the 2006 sale of the sport's rights, according to a report. READ  

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany
Joachim Löw holding the World Cup trophy. File photo: DPA

Löw aims for Euro 2016 with new-look Germany

World Cup winners Germany have suffered something of a hangover since their triumph in Brazil, but coach Joachim Löw is hoping a new-look side can go on to claim more glory at Euro 2016. READ  

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges
Photo: DPA

T-Mobile to pay $90 mn over US fraud charges

German mobile phone company T-Mobile has agreed to pay at least $90 million to settle US government claims that it bilked customers with bogus charges, US regulators said Friday. READ  

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law
Photo: DPA

Ethics Council rejects assisted suicide law

The German Ethics Council said the law should not be changed to permit assisted suicide in a paper published on Friday. READ  

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin
Swan Lake. An abandoned ride in the Spreewald pleasure park. Photo: DPA

Abandoned themepark needs 14m says Berlin

The iconic ruined themepark in the centre of Berlin - a long-time favourite of hipster adventurers - needs a clean-up costing at least 14 million euros, the Berlin government has revealed. READ  

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer
File photo of Nuremberg main station: Shutterstock

Police nab Nuremberg station bomb hoaxer

Officers in Nuremberg arrested a man on Thursday evening after he called in a false bomb threat against the main train station READ  

Opinion
Angela, David...and Nigel
So near...and yet so far Photo: DPA

Angela, David...and Nigel

The rise of UKIP broke up what had been a good 2014 for Cameron and Merkel. READ  

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead
Dr Gunther von Hagens. Photo: DPA

'Dr Death' corpse museum gets go-ahead

A Berlin court has said that infamous human taxidermist Gunther von Hagens can open a museum in the capital - over objections from local officials. READ  

Presented by Phorms Education
Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech
Photo: Phorms Education

Phorms bilingual schools boast top-notch tech

As parents fret over children’s internet habits, a network of bilingual schools in Germany shows that putting computers in the classroom from an early age yields positive results. READ  

Networks scramble to patch mobile security
Chancellor Angela Merkel has herself been the victim of phone hacking. Photo: DPA

Networks scramble to patch mobile security

IT experts led by Berlin-based Karsten Nohl said on Thursday they had discovered security flaws in the mobile phone networks that would allow attackers to read users' messages. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Willy Brandt at his inauguration in 1972. Photo: DPA
National
Willy Brandt: the man, the chancellor... the airport?
Dresden skyline and river by night. Photo: DPA
Politics
What does Dresden have against Muslims?
Sponsored Article
Why are these International Baccalaureate students cheering?
Germany's national football team lifts the World Cup trophy
Gallery
Germany's most-Googled words of 2014
National
Why has The Local got a new logo?
Photo: DPA
National
This German was abducted and tortured by the CIA
Culture
10 top tips for partying in Germany
Sponsored Article
Top ten gifts for an expat Christmas
Photo: DPA
Technology
What does the Chancellor see as the future of the internet?
Photo: DPA
Culture
Stuff your face with these festive German cookies
Photo: DPA
Culture
What do beer, breakfast cereal and dildos have in common?
Culture
The Local's guide to German Christmas markets
Sponsored Article
Top five quirky Christmas jumpers
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
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

3,211
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd