January 31, 2007

Digital Art Gives the Finger, Gets Blown Up

by Nick Montfort · , 5:32 pm

LED art A piece of LED art, referring to the Aqua Teen Hunger Force, seems to have been “neutralized” by a Boston police bomb squad. Police have found several other devices, presumably the same Lite-Brite-style artworks. And it seems they now have declared the devices part of a hoax that is “not funny.” A caption in that last article claims that at least of the devices was “detonated.” The news about this one came to me from Joe Shaw.

This recalls earlier incidents in Ohio (with Super Mario Bros. “?” blocks) and, much earlier, the New York Subway (“FEAR” boxes). Not to mention our own Scott Rettberg being questioned by police as he and I were working on Implementation in Philadelpia’s 30th Street Station.

11 Responses to “Digital Art Gives the Finger, Gets Blown Up”


  1. andrew Says:

    This reminds me, doesn’t Master Shake eerily remind you of Ken Perlin?

  2. nick Says:

    The resemblance is uncanny.

    This incident really is pretty disturbing, I’ve come to realize. If it were just art that looked like terrorism, as in the previous cases that I linked to, so what? There’s only a tiny amount of art to scare us, and we can just lock up the artists or help them learn to police their own artistic practices.

    But these devices weren’t art, they were advertising, as Turner has now admitted. Imagine that you can’t tell the difference between advertising and terrorism. Now imagine New Years Eve in Times Square. I think you see the problem.

  3. vika zafrin Says:

    Here’s a Boston Globe article (login may be required) about an artist who got arrested. I know of at least one other artist, from the same art collective called Glitch, who got arrested. CNN reports here.

    What gets me is that they got arrested AFTER Turner owned up. At least one of them is to be arraigned tomorrow morning. Somehow I don’t think Turner’s lawyers are doing a thing to get them out earlier. There’s a $100K bail set on my friend’s head.

    These guys are good artists; they’ve been exhibiting all around Boston and New York and the Nevada desert. The whole thing is so ridiculous that it would be funny if not for the knee-jerk reactions to art in the last few years. As it stands, who knows?

  4. words’ end » Artists arrested in Boston for LED “bomb” scare. Says:

    [...] t again after I know what happens at the arraignment. Meanwhile, here’s a link to a Grand Text Auto post that mentions other instances in whic [...]

  5. mark Says:

    Strange that the Attorney General of Massachusetts, a member of the Democratic Party and supposedly a “progressive”, is unapologetically beating the terrorism drum in a disturbingly authoritarian manner, while the Republican Attorney Generals of Texas, Georgia, and Pennsylvania didn’t think it necessary to arrest anyone in these incidents.

  6. Ian Says:

    Here in Boston, I think the arrest of the two artists is largely seen for what it is: a way for the local government to prove (a) how seriously pissed off they are (rightfully so), and (b) to give yesterday’s scare a sense of resolution. It’s unfortunate that the artists are being so blatantly used as scapegoats, but it’s not going unnoticed. There was a demonstration this morning outside of the courthouse where they were arraigned (and later released on bail). See this Globe article for more details.

    And just to put the terrorism spiel into perspective a bit, the first LED authorities found was planted underneath a major highway and above a T station that doesn’t exactly see heavy traffic. Not a good place for an advertisement, but not a bad place for a bomb.

  7. andrew Says:

    An article and photo of them being led to court in handcuffs is currently at the top of the front page of nytimes.com!

  8. mark Says:

    Somebody uploaded a television interview with the artists to YouTube. And for the collectors, a sign someone scavenged from the Atlanta version of the same promotion is on eBay, going for $910 as of this posting.

  9. mark Says:

    I suppose in the age of CafePress you can even mock Boston on apparel in a timely manner. Those amused by Boston mayor Thomas Menino’s use of the Bush-trademark phrase “in a post 9/11 world” when describing the incident have wasted no time in producing “1-31-07 never forget” shirts (1, 2) and other assorted mockery. There’s even something for those nostalgic for the days of “Free Kevin Mitnick”.

  10. mister slim Says:

    I know when I plant bombs I make sure they’re as attention getting as possible.

    This devalues terrorism. We’ve now moved to the point where colored lights can shut down a major city. This is an untenable position. I think the terrorists have won.

  11. Grand Text Auto » enter_unknown territories in Cambridge, UK Says:

    [...] land from April 25-29. It seems that this includes an LED workshop – good thing it’s not taking place in Cambride, MA. There’s a blog for [...]

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