• Germany edition
 
Pixelhead - the ultimate in anonymous?
Photo: Jessica Ware

Pixelhead - the ultimate in anonymous?

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

Don't miss...X
Left Right

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
Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online
Prisoners of War pictured in 1918. Photo: Bundesarchiv/Bild 183-S45825

Germany puts 700,000 WWI docs online

Hundreds of thousands of rare records and images from World War I have been put online by the German government, ahead of Monday's 100th anniversary of the start of the conflict. READ  

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions
Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Vladimir Putin chat with Fifa President Sepp Blatter (c) in Brazil before the 2014 World Cup final. Photo: DPA

Merkel to push for 'swift' EU Russia sanctions

UPDATE: Russia's failure to help quell the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and fully assist the investigation into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 demanded a tough response, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday. READ  

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016
Joachim Löw (l) during a coaching session in Brazil. Photo:DPA

Löw to remain Germany coach to 2016

UPDATE: Joachim Löw will remain German national football team coach following the World Cup victory in Brazil, he confirmed on Wednesday. READ  

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests
A pro-Palestine demonstration in Berlin on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Pressure on police over anti-Semitic protests

Demands are growing in Germany for the prosecution of protesters in Berlin, Frankfurt and other cities who led anti-Semitic chants and incited violence against Jews over Israel's military offensive in Gaza. READ  

The Local List
The 12 best words in the German language
Photo: DPA

The 12 best words in the German language

The Local List has covered all aspects of German words, from the untranslatable to the longest. But we've never done a ranking of what are simply the best words in the German language, until now... READ  

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train
Police arrested three Italians for allegedly driving 25 Syrians into Germany on Tuesday. Photo: Bundespolizei

Munich police find 49 refugees on one train

Police in Munich found 49 refugees on one train which arrived at the city’s central station from Italy on Monday night. Officers in the Bavarian capital have reported a “huge increase” in the number of people arriving illegally over the last few weeks at Munich's train terminal. READ  

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home
Coach Joachim Löw ensured his team had a yoga instructor with them at all times. Photo: DPA

Yoga helped Jogi's boys bring World Cup home

Germany’s World Cup winning football team have revealed one of the secrets of their success in Brazil this summer – yoga. READ  

Court jails student for protest at far-right ball
Josef S. at the court in Vienna. Photo: DPA

Court jails student for protest at far-right ball

UPDATE: A German student, accused of being the ringleader of far-left demonstrators who protested at Vienna’s far-right Akademikerball, has been jailed, despite questionable evidence of his involvement. READ  

Lufthansa cancels Tel Aviv flights
A Lufthansa Boeing 747 at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Photo: DPA

Lufthansa cancels Tel Aviv flights

Lufthansa said on Tuesday it was suspending its service to Tel Aviv until at least Thursday over security concerns amid the escalating Gaza conflict. READ  

German state bans Hells Angels' logo online
Photo: DPA

German state bans Hells Angels' logo online

Displaying the symbols of notorious motorcycle gangs the Hells Angels and the Bandidos is forbidden across Germany, but that ban has now extended to the internet. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Politics
View from Germany: 'Nobody will win in an economic war with Russia'
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Jobtalk: How innovative is Germany?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
German Bucket List: How many of these can you tick off?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Joachim Löw: A career in pictures
Photo: Submitted
Society
Is this expat cat the world's oldest?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Germany's week in pictures: July 12th - July 18th
Photo: DPA
National
Heatwave to bring highs of 36C to Germany
Photo: DPA
Analysis & Opinion
Should Germany follow France and ban the burqa?
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
Which workers is Germany short of?
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Ten best expat jobs in Germany: Which one would you choose?
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Photo: Shutterstock
Features
Some of the most embarrassing mistakes you can make in German
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
CurrencyFair: Why it pays when making overseas transfers
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
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

3,263
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd