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Picidae – Woodpeckers Hacking Through the Chinese Firewall

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung (New Zurich Newspaper, NZZ) reported today about a fascinating project of two Swiss artist who developed a method of overcoming the Chinese censorship in the internet. The site “” was officially launched last Tuesday and is in English, German, Chinese and Arab. The name “picidae” comes from Latin and means “woodpecker”. The first holes in the Berlin wall were hit by so called “Mauerspechte” (woodpeckers) and gave the project its name: picidae (woodpecker).


They call picidae “an art project, that deals with one’s own horizons of imagination, the image of the world, communication and its hurdles and barriers.” picidae negotiates the firewall (Internet censorship) eg. in China or in the Arabian states. picidae delivers a complete, readable and even clickable image of the censored web sites.

The picidae site is not made up of text and HTML elements (tables, images etc.). picidae delivers a screenshot. The page is visible but not machine-readable. This means the text cannot be searched, marked or saved as a text file. That’s why internet censorship, which reacts on keywords (similar to search engines and correction programs), is not able to detect or suppress picidae pages. picidae is not a centrally organised system and is not be reachable via a centralised database. Every access point and every server runs independently and without description and naming – to prevent censorship and deactivation.

Their definition of picidae as an art project is very close to spiritual concepts of visualisation and going beyond the form, realising oneself as the observer, the I AM, which is not defined by the object he sees: “Art searches for new ways (repetition is in terms of Fine Arts just copying). The new images picidae provides are images of ones own horizon of imagination: images of a global communication and images concerning limitation and overcoming of ones own view. The images are generated in the head of the observer, exactly like in an image gallery. The point is not exactly what is displayed in an artwork but what is inspiring in the sense of Art history and reflection.”

I tested the picidae-server with our good-will website, and it is astonishing how the site is perfectly rendered, as an image. (I tried to put a link to the site, but the url changes, so you cannot link to the picidae-transformed view.)

Hopefully this approach is being used for expanding the freedom of expression and information, to further human relations and not to spread perverse and destructive ideas beyond any sense of discrimination.

By the way, the two artists have earlier launched a site called Zone*Interdite, “a test arrangement that serves as a starting point for individual exploratory tours” into the world of military restricted areas, which they are showing on an interactive map. “Individual imagination and the joy of discovering occurs, i.e. spotting, replacing the patriotic and pacifistic duty of a knee-jerk avowal, and undermining censorship, as well as the restriction of perception.”

Pecking through the great firewall of China and other totalitarian systems

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