The WIRETAP Deck: Local Illustrator Creates Fine Art Playing Cards with Surveillance Theme

Dave Boyd, right, creator of the Wiretap playing card deck, with Nikki Allen Poe in The Declaration's mad journalism lab

Dave Boyd, right, creator of the Wiretap playing card deck, with Nikki Allen Poe in The Declaration’s mad journalism lab

Kings Richard Nixon, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Sen. Joe McCarthy head the royal families of the Court Cards in the WIRETAP deck, created by illustrator Dave Boyd. The deck also includes Jacks and Queens which feature whistle-blowers from the first decade of the 21st Century, such as William Binney and Edward Snowden.

Edward Snowden, Jack of Spades, with Jack of Hearts Julian Assange. Photo by Dave Boyd

Edward Snowden, Jack of Spades, with Jack of Hearts Julian Assange. Photo by Dave Boyd

Karen Kwiatkowski and Laura Poitras, Queens of Spades and Hearts

Karen Kwiatkowski and Laura Poitras, Queens of Spades and Hearts

Boyd, who graduated from the University of the Arts Illustration Department in 2012, is preparing to relaunch distribution of the deck once his kickstarter campaign, now with just over a day left, expires. Having previously designed successful playing card sets, including work with Deco Playing Card Company, he says he has found that decks featuring contemporary subjects don’t seem to generate the interest of historical and futuristic decks.

Cards of each suit in the WIRETAP deck is distinguished by its respective “pip,” the term for appearances of the suit’s namesake image on each individual card (the front of a three, for example, typically features 5 pips, one below each “3” and three in the middle of the card face). The cards in Boyd’s deck have been given pips with a theme to match the suit’s King – Nixon’s microphone is reflected in each diamond in the deck, for instance.

In turn Boyd has a reason for the props given to each King. His description of the late Senator Joe McCarthy, King of Clubs:

“Joseph McCarthy – The second face card to gain notoriety before 2000. Used his position as a Senator to accuse American citizens of being communist sympathizers during the 1950’s. He was never able to prove his unsubstantiated claims that the government had been infiltrated by communists, and his accusations led to the period in American history known as the Red Scare. He was chosen as the king of clubs thanks to his grandstanding tactics and blunt accusations (clubbing the opponent over the head), and sports a paintbrush to illustrate how he “painted the town red.” 

Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, Photo by David Boyd

Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy, Photo by David Boyd

And Mr. Boyd does not shy away from using his illustrations to convey his own opinions about today’s politicians, as can be seen from his description of the Barack Obama King of Hearts.

Barack Obama – Platformed on total transparency, then did a complete 180 once elected. Did next to nothing to reign in the NSA’s spying capabilities on domestic citizens, and always appears surprised on television whenever he “learns” of these activities. That seems a little suspicious for the leader of the executive branch of the United States. Chosen as the Suicide King thanks to his flip-flopping on intelligence transparency.

Boyd will be announcing the relaunch of the WIRETAP soon, and the Declaration will share information about how you can have your own deck. You can check out his work at daveboydart.com and on his blog,  The Humorous Robot. 

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About Kenneth Lipp

Kenneth is a writer and researcher. He’s from Alabama, and will not apologize for it. He moved to Pennsylvania in 2012, but has been in love with Philadelphia since a late-night stroll down Ben Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum in July of 2011 with the love of his life. He is interested in telling Philadelphia’s dynamic and absolutely unique stories with the zeal of a constantly enamored newcomer. Kenneth is also passionate about government transparency and protection of whistleblowers, most notably PFC Chelsea Manning. His research and reporting on law enforcement and surveillance have been featured in various publications, including Rolling Stone (Meet the Private Companies Helping Cops Spy on Protesters) and Popular Science (Boston Tested Crowd-Watching Software That Catalogues People's Skin Color). His training is in both genetics and history and he likes the joke about being a helicase and unzipping your “genes.” He’s driven to know, and thinks you can handle, the truth. Follow him on Twitter @kennethlipp.

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