Future Tense

Spain Is Banning Protesters in Front of Parliament, So Activists Sent Holograms Instead

Holographic images representing a protest are projected in front
Protester holograms are projected in front of the Spanish Parliament by No Somos Delito, on April 10 in Madrid.

Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

If holograms are good enough for Tupac and the Turkish prime minister, they should be good enough for everyone. And activists in Spain are looking to use projection tech in a whole new way, creating an army of protesters who aren’t, well, real.

No Somos Delito (“We Are Not a Crime”) has been working to oppose a group of Spanish “citizen security” laws passed in March and going into effect July 1. The new regulations place restrictions on protests and speech. For example, picketing outside of Parliament and distributing certain types of photos of police would be punishable with fines exceeding $30,000. For now, projections like those used for holograms are not prohibited by the laws.

The hologram protesters have caused a big stir within Spain and internationally, though. Carlos Escaño, the spokesperson for No Somos Delito, told Slate that it was the group’s intention to start an international conversation through the holograms. “It’s about art, about going to a place beyond discourse. It’s about touching emotion,” he said. The group feels that the new laws are “a resounding blow to democracy.”

The group, which is made up of about 100 different organizations and social movements, worked on the hologram project for a few months before debuting it last week. The system uses two types of holograms: the protesters, and the No Somos Delito representatives who answer questions. Javier Urbaneja, the executive creative director of New York–based advertising firm DDB, told El Mundo that the holograms are projected on a 7-foot-tall, semitransparent fabric. Urbaneja worked with No Somos Delito to combine studio images with images and voices recorded by volunteers from 50 different countries. The team filmed several layers of volunteers in a green screen studio that can mimic different terrain based on where a protest will be located to enhance the illusion of depth.

The approach is a big step both for techology use in activism and hologram visibility. No Somos Delito, which is working to create multiple mediums for protest so its activism can’t be silenced, the real test will be whether their campaign helps to defeat the citizen security laws. Escaño says, “The law is surreal—so surreal that it drove us to do something equally surreal.”