Brad Downey

'Monuments Expanded: FSB'
digital video

In February 2022, a headline read, "Russian Teenager Gets Five Years in Prison in Minecraft 'Terrorism'."
Investigators in Russia confiscated a 16-year-old's phone and found chats that "proved" he had planned to add the FSB building to the popular Minecraft game and destroy it there.

Consequently, a court in Siberia sentenced the 16-year-old boy to five years in prison in what they called "a high-profile terrorism case."

At the time, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey were wrapping up a long-term project in Minecraft, playing around in the game for more than a year.

The idea that a government had turned a teenage gamer into a political prisoner (for thought-crime) and declared him a terrorist seemed like extreme mental gymnastics.

In response to this story, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey simply carried out the teenager's plans, hoping to show how silly the whole action would look, especially in childish blocky Minecraft aesthetics.

But just before releasing the videos and gifs, the war in Ukraine broke out and the childish gesture took on heavier layers of meaning. These silly images Jan Vormann and Brad Downey created (meant as a humorous protest in support of an unjust sentence) transformed into something different in the face of actual Ukrainian cities being devastated.

Weeks into the war, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey decided to rework and consolidate the content into an NFT with extra data allowing the buyer to reinstall the sculpture in their Minecraft world.

After the work was sold, Jan Vormann and Brad Downey contacted the lawyer of the 16-year-old on Telegram. Part of the money was donated to the 16-year-old boy's mother, and the other part was donated to Metalab, an organization in Ivano Frankivsk, Ukraine, that is building apartments for struggling families relocating from war-torn regions.

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    About the artist

    Brad Downey has exhibited widely in Europe, as well as in numerous international exhibitions, museums and biennials, such as the Timișoara Architecture Biennale in 2022, and the Tbilisi Architecture Biennale in 2020.  There have been several monographicexhibitions of Downeys work, including I Am You, You Are Me at HDLU Meštrović Pavilion in Zagreb 2023, Slow Motion Disasters at Kunstraum Kreuzberg
    Bethanien in Berlin in 2019, and, and Reverse Culture Shock at MU Hybrid Art House in Eindhoven in 2018. Further solo exhibitions include Flupp Blubb Boing at Kunstverein Arnsberg in 2020, and This Echo at the Galerija Vžigalica in Ljubljana in 2019. In 2020 Hatje Cantz published a 20 year survey of Downeys work entitled Slapstick Formalism: Process, Project, Object.