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Jacob Appelbaum, Wikileaks activist and Tor Project leader, travels to Beijing to work with artist/activist Ai Weiwei for Rhizome's Seven on Seven conference at the New Museum.

Laura Poitras documents the pair in her first film since Citizenfour, premiering excerpts at the event on May 2. On Saturday, April 19, Jacob Appelbaum—notable Wikileaks and Tor Project activist—traveled to Beijing for five days to take part in a collaboration with dissident artist Ai Weiwei, at the invitation of art-meets-tech organization Rhizome, on the occasion of the seventh Seven on Seven conference at the New Museum. Director Laura Poitras, whose portrait of Edward Snowden won the 2015 Academy Award for Documentary Feature, filmed the duo's work.

Seven on Seven is an annual signature conference with a unique format that pairs artists and technologists together to make something new in 24 hours. The pair worked to create an artwork that underscores their mutual concerns with privacy, surveillance, and their state-restricted movement.

Excerpts of the short film documenting this collaboration—Poitras' first since Citizenfour—will be premiered at the event, held at New Museum in New York on May 2, and the final film will be released online later in May.

The Appelbaum/Ai collaboration was organized by Heather Corcoran, Executive Director of Rhizome, who said: “It was important to bring together these two courageous people who are disseminating their messages using art and technology, respectively, and facing similar levels of scrutiny and hardship as a result. It represents the best that Rhizome achieves with Seven on Seven, which brings the worlds of technology and art into closer proximity, to share strategies for thinking critically about digital culture and communicating those ideas. Seven on Seven creates a bridge for luminaries in these two fields to work together. That Poitras chose to document this film as her first since Citizenfour, illustrates just how intertwined aesthetics and protest can be, linking together the narratives of Appelbaum and Ai with the subjects of Poitras other films. It's important to recognize these people are not working in isolation."

In 2009, Ai used a blog to convey his critical messages about the Chinese government to the public, before it was shut down due to its popularity and influence. Appelbaum has been repeatedly targeted by US law enforcement agencies, who obtained a court order for his Twitter account data. Both face restrictions in their travel—Ai currently cannot leave China, and Appelbaum cannot travel to the USA due to fear of detainment regarding his involvement with Wikileaks and the Snowden revelations.

Both Ai and Appelbaum expressed a desire to use this project to raise awareness of the causes they champion. Appelbaum says of his work with Wikileaks, Snowden and Tor: "My one goal is that in twenty years time no one can say they didn't know what was happening, so we'll know who didn't act to stop it." Ai's typically elliptical reflection was that: "I see my art as a way of reminding people of certain facts."

Lisa Phillips, an Executive Producer of the Poitras film and Toby Devan Lewis Director of the New Museum says, "Only Rhizome, with its twenty year history at the forefront of art and technology, has the vision to pair these two together, and the experience to support them in making something new. It is my personal commitment to further freedom of artistic expression and one that is carried out through both the New Museum and Rhizome's core mission ."

For additional information, visit the websites:

www.rhizome.org

www.newmuseum.org

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