• 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
Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'
Sudeten Germans practising traditional dance at a gathering in 2014. Photo: DPA

Sudeten Germans give up 'right to homeland'

The Sudeten German Homeland Association has given up its claim to the group's former home in parts of the Czech Republic, quieting one of the final echoes of the Second World War. READ  

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan
Families Minister Manuela Schwesig. Photo: DPA

Minister draws fire over wage transparency plan

Families Minister Manuela Schwesig confirmed on Sunday that she wants a new law allowing women to compare their wages with men doing similar work, provoking angry reactions from employers. READ  

Police wind down Bremen terror response
Heavily-armed police on patrol outside Bremen cathedral. Photo: DPA

Police wind down Bremen terror response

Police in Bremen said that the risk of a terrorist attack had been reduced in the city after they arrested two suspected arms dealers. The city remains under high alert, with special protection for the Jewish community. READ  

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone
Photo: DPA

Germany's Schäuble softens Greece tone

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said Sunday Greece's new hard-left government needs "a bit of time" but is committed to implementing necessary reforms to resolve its debt crisis. READ  

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo
Photo: DPA

UK Pegida rally dwarfed by counter-demo

An estimated 375 people turned out for the Germany-based PEGIDA movement's first demonstration in Britain on Saturday, but were outnumbered by a 2,000-strong crowd of counter-protesters, police said. READ  

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote
Photo: DPA

Greek PM vows to 'start working hard' after vote

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras vowed Friday to "start working hard" to implement vital reforms in the stricken eurozone country, after Germany's parliament approved a four month extension to its bailout. READ  

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce
Photo: DPA

Ukraine: troop deaths 'serious breach' of truce

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko declared the killing of three government troops by pro Moscow rebels a "serious breach of the ceasefire", during a telephone call Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, her office said. READ  

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps
Trouble at the top. Photo: DPA

Man wins court battle over loud footsteps

Germany's highest civil court ruled in favour of a man who swapped the carpet in his new apartment for parquet flooring, incurring the wrath of the retired couple who lived below him over his loud footsteps. READ  

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday
Photo: DPA

Teachers to strike nationwide from Monday

Teachers all over the country are expected to stike starting Monday, German education trade union GEW said, after negotiations with the wage commission of the federal states (TdL) failed to achieve results. READ  

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes
Andre Shepherd at the European Court of Justice in June 2014. Photo: DPA

EU court deals blow to US Iraq objector's hopes

American soldier Andre Shepherd, who applied for asylum in Germany as a conscientious objector against the war in Iraq after going AWOL from his unit, saw a judgement by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) go against him on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
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
Sponsored Article
Tourist or lifer: what sort of expat are you?
National
How Dresden bombing still divides Germany, 70 years on
Sponsored Article
Are you an American expat? How to face FATCA
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

3,199
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd