If there’s anyone who’s proven the immense power of documentary, it’s Laura Poitras, the director and producer of the Oscar-winning documentary “Citizenfour.” Her film shook new ground when it exposed the whereabouts of Edward Snowden, the elusive ex-NSA employee behind the infamous 2013 Wikileaks, as well as the invasive wiretapping practices of the NSA. Poitras’ commitment to truth and storytelling didn’t stop there, however, as she was invited to film Chinese artist and activist Ai Wei Wei and computer researcher and confidant to Edward Snowden, Jacob Appelbaum, in their first collaboration for a powerful art-tech piece entitled “Panda to Panda.”
Her short film, “The Art of Dissent,” debuted today on The New York Times’ website, and it documents the intricate and eye-opening processes behind Appelbaum and Ai Wei Wei’s collaboration. Just as much as Poitras’ filmmaking serves as a cogent medium for activism, Ai Wei Wei and Appelbaum’s art project speaks volumes to the dangers of government surveillance. Each artist has confronted difficulties with surveillance in the past, and they both recount on their harrowing experiences in the film. Their piece, “Panda to Panda,” serves as a powerful culmination of activism, technology, utility and art, which is further emphasized through Laura Poitras’ stunning and poignant filmmaking.
Ai Wei Wei and Appelbaum are participants in the Seven on Seven art-tech conference organized by Rhizome and founded by the New Museum.