SIGNALS is the first project to critically engage with artists not just responding to but also actually working with the NSA files leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It reflects on how artists are deploying the files as raw material and, by creating all kinds of works, are transforming them into commons. The exhibition/books include contributions by Zeljko Blace (CRO), Andrew Clement (CAN), Naomi Colvin (GBR), Simon Denny (NZL), Christoph Hochhäusler (GER), Evan Light (CAN), Geert Lovink (NED), M.C. McGrath (USA), Henrik Moltke (DEN), Deborah Natsios (USA), Julian Oliver (NZL), Trevor Paglen (USA), Laura Poitras (USA), SAZAE bot (JPN), Stefan Tiron (ROU), University of the Phoenix (CAN), Maria Xynou (ESP), and John Young (USA).

Video Talks

Simon Denny (artist)

Deborah Natsios/John Young (activists)

Naomi Colvin (activist)

Christoph Hochhäusler (filmmaker)

Zeljko Blace (artist)

Andrew Clement (researcher)

M.C. McGrath (coder)

Joseph Vogl (philosopher)

Max Haiven/Cassie Thornton (art group)

Evan Light (artist)

Maria Xeynou (researcher/activist)

Geert Lovink (net critic)



The title takes its cue from intelligence agencies: they refer to any type of communication as a 'signal', and they collect and analyze these 'signals' on a massive scale. The exhibition translates this into the language of culture, where the world is coded and decoded in the form of 'signals' shaped by political and economic contexts. The exhibition is partitioned into two sections: frontend and backend. These terms designate on the one hand computerized user interfaces, on the other data bases which reside behind the interfaces. The backend structures the possibilities of the frontend, e.g. by monitoring all interactions and by using that data to predict future uses. All of this remains opaque to users. The exhibition turns the tables on these conditions and complicates them.


The frontend of the SIGNALS exhibition presents a representative spectrum of appropriations of the Snowden documents in the fields of art, media and archives. In this way the frontend provides insights into processes and infrastructure that usually remain black-boxed: e.g., the cooperations between security services and commercial web services, the web of undersea cables that actually constitutes the celestial cloud, the discursive construction of quantified citizens, etc. The disclosures of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden are not simply documented at the exhibition's frontend; instead they appear transformed through various forms of appropriation: as works of art, as material of archives, as dubious media sources.


The backend of the exhibition has the look and feel of an open participation platform. The exhibition appears unfinished and confronts the visitors with the question of how they can contribute to the show and expand the actual body of work. The backend presents options for working with the Snowden documents. In this way it places the potential of the precarious documents up for discussion. Material, tools, workshops and art works offer possibilities to transform the documents and their 'secret knowledge' into means of political communication. Meanwhile, additional materials such as news clippings or quotes from movies are calling forth doubt – last but not least about the socio-political consequences of any work that has been done with Snowden files so far.

Events + Books


The exhibition program is complemented with events such as talks, performances and workshops. Moreover, two publications extend the dialectical frontend/backend narrative of the exhibition. Both books will be published in English by DIAMONDPAPER. Locations: The book launch on 11/09 will take place at Buchhandlung Walther König an der Museumsinsel, Burgstraße 27, 10178 Berlin. All other events will take place at DIAMONDPAPER Studio, Köpenicker Straße 96, 10179 Berlin. All events are 'free entry'.


11/09 at 7 p.m.: Book Launch of "A Field Guide to the Snowden Files" feat. Christoph Hochhäusler. 12/09 at 6 p.m.: Exhibition opening feat. Zeljko Blace, Stefan Tiron & other artists of the exhibition. 13/09 at 6 p.m.: Workshop feat. Naomi Colvin & Evan Light. 25/09 at 6 p.m.: Talk feat. Max Haiven & Joseph Vogl. 26/09 at 6 p.m.: Finissage feat. performance by Sazae Bot, talk by Andrew Clement & Simon Denny. 01/11 at 7 p.m.: Special closing performance by University of the Phoenix. All events – except the book launch on Sept. 11 – will take place at DIAMONDPAPER Studio.


"A Field Guide to the Snowden Files. Media, Art, Archives. 2013-2017", edited by the exhibition curators Magdalena Taube and Krystian Woznicki, gathers for the first time a representative selection of artists working with the Snowden files. You can order the book here. "Fugitive Belonging", authored by Krystian Woznicki, reflects the broader socio-political context behind the Snowden disclosures by combining photography and theory. You can order the book here.


The Berliner Gazette (BG) has worked on the Snowden disclosures from the very beginning. It has launched several critical interventions under the motto Snowden Commons that are intended to explore and expand the democratic potential of the disclosures. As a nonprofit and nonpartisan team of journalists, researchers, artists and coders, the BG analyzes and tests emerging cultural and political practices. Since 1999 the BG has been publishing under a Creative Commons license – with more than 900 contributors from all over the world – as well as organizing symposia, exhibitions and editing books. Mail suggestions to: info(at) Visit our site



The independent art and theory publishing house DIAMONDPAPER was founded in the early 2000s, aiming to create a common space in which to bring together important artistic positions and critical thought. It has managed an exhibition space at the address Köpenicker Strasse 96 in Berlin since the fall of 2015. The venue, which is accessible to the public and open on the side facing the street, is situated on the boundary between Mitte and Kreuzberg and is meant to function as a showcase for the ‚book works‘ that are designed in the rear section of the building. The opening hours of the SIGNALS exhibition are: September 12-26, 2017, Tuesday through Saturday 12 to 6 p.m. and in October by appointment only, preferably groups and school classes.

Venue + opening hours

Venue + opening hours

The exhibition will hold its special closing event on November 1 at 7 p.m.: a final exhibition tour followed by a performance by University of the Phoenix (please register by Oct. 25 under mt(at) The event will take place in conjunction with the BG annual conference – FRIENDLY FIRE. Failed Citizens or Failed States? – which is taking place on November 2-4, 2017 at ZK/U.

Special closing performance

Special closing performance

The venue, the art works, the guests, the talks and workshops, the exhibition tours, the opening and closing events – many precious moments of the SIGNALS project have been captured photographically. The photos were taken by members of the Berliner Gazette team, including Leonie Geiger, Norman Posselt, Andi Weiland and Krystian Woznicki. Check out all photos in this flickr album.

Photo documentation

Photo documentation

The two SIGNALS books are available via DIAMONDPAPER ( ) and in bookshops, such as pro qm, Walther König, b books and Motto Books in Berlin. The international distribution is organized by Anagram Books.

Book distribution

Book distribution

The SIGNALS project is supported by the Capital Cultural Fund. It is administered by the Senate department responsible for culture of the city-state of Berlin, which in turn is financed by the city-state.