Studio blog of Annie Bissett, an artist working with traditional Japanese woodblock printing (moku hanga)
09 February 2014
SECRET CODEWORDS OF THE NSA: ICEBERG
woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
6 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
I is for iceberg, which is "a major NSA backbone project," according to my list of 100 NSA secret code names. Not a lot to go on there, but it's probably something to do with the NSA grabbing data as it passes through the fiber optic cables that make up what is called the internet's backbone. Most of those cables lie deep in the oceans, and they carry phone and internet traffic from every country in the world, including the U.S.
It's funny, if you Google "NSA iceberg," there's nothing about the NSA Iceberg program, but you do get pages and pages of articles with headlines that say something like "NSA revelations the tip of the iceberg."
And in the news just this month, new documents leaked by Edward Snowden reveal that the NSA spied on other governments at the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, giving U.S. negotiators advance information about other governments' positions. World leaders at that summit failed to agree to a strong deal on climate change.
This is the second time I've printed an icberg. The first one, titled "Known and Unknown," can be seen here. This new iceberg is basically the same shape as the old one, but more stylized with crystalline shapes. If you watch popular culture design/illustration at all, you may have noticed that these crystalline shapes are quit popular right now. That happens sometimes, where everybody just starts drawing something seemingly all at the same time. I first noticed this in the late 1990s when everywhere you looked people were drawing deer. Then there was a squid and octopus fad, and a couple of years ago I started seeing a whole lot of chandeliers. I don't know why that happens. Anyway, crystalline shapes are pretty common right now, so I'm joining the bandwagon. I think I'll be hopping the octopus bandwagon too, albeit late, on the next NSA print.
Labels: code words, nsa, woodblock print, woodcut
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I love the faceted iceberg Annie. I would swear that we will be getting some of those soon on our lakes. I don't think I'll be able to pull off the octopus myself (although their tentacle patterns are amazing) but I will look forward to yours. Can't wait to see all of this in a Blurb book. I'm assuming you'll have your thought provoking text as well.
I'm not sure how relevant it really is, but this particular piece made me think of Etienne de France's "documentary" Tales of a Sea Cow. The premise of his film is that a population of Stellar's Sea Cows, a species that in fact went extinct in the 18th century (not long after it was discovered by Europeans) has survived off of Greenland. Most of the film is devoted to the work of two "scientists" (in fact, they are actors, as the entire premise is fictional) who have discovered that these surviving Sea Cows are intensely sensitive to sources of electromagnetic radiation (radio transmissions, etc.), which they are able to memorize and reproduce in their song. Using a computer program, the "scientists" are able to convert the song into 3-D graphics, some of which take forms vaguely akin to the one in your piece. I'm sure the NSA would be very interested in the capabilities of these mammals!
There is a trailer for the film at http://vimeo.com/41388106.
Thanks Hannah (Elizabeth?).
Chris, thank you for introducing me to "Tales of a Sea Cow." The trailer looks wonderful, and I see a definite relationship to Secret Codewords of the NSA! Will try to find out how to see the film.
Great piece here. I'm reminded of kryptonite a bit here, shape-wise though not in color. I probably have that stuck in my head since my fiance is watching old episodes of Smallville here lately... Anyway, I really love the straight lines, geometric shapes, and the variations in color. Looking forward to seeing more!
Wade, thanks for the kryptonite reference. I totally see it:
See kryptonite here
Well, I fell in love with comic books before printmaking (though there is an obvious connection, I think), but I'm glad that it wasn't just me who could see it!
NSA octopus...lol...made me envision an octopus with phone at the end of each tentacle peering out from a tangle of wires...
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