Social scientist, artist, writer and provocateur Trevor Paglen uses photography to explore the secret activities of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies. For me, Geographies of Seeing was one of Brighton Photo Biennial’s to-see shows, not least for Paglen’s multi-dimensional approach to his subject matter. Who could resist taking time to look at the work of someone who is described as a ‘provocateur’, especially as I first saw some of this work at Frieze art fair a few years ago and was intrigued back then.
On the press tour of the show I got a chance to discuss the work with Lighthouse director Honor Harger who provides an informed and articulate insight into Paglen’s work in the audio podcast below. Click on the link below and then again on the link, it goes green as you rool over it, in the next page. It is 17mins 26secs long.
“The Other Night Sky uses data from an international network of amateur satellite watchers to track and photograph classified spacecraft. Echoing the efforts of historic astronomers, Paglen documents astral movements that don’t officially exist.
“In the series Limit Telephotography Paglen adapted the super-strength telescopes, normally used to shoot distant planets, to reveal top-secret U.S. governmental sites, sometimes 65 miles away from his camera; covert bases, so remote they cannot be seen by an unaided civilian eye from any point on Earth.
“Paglen coined the term “Experimental Geography” to describe practices coupling experimental cultural production and art-making with ideas from critical human geography about the production of space, materialism, and praxis. His work, such The Other Night Sky has received widespread attention for both his technical innovations and for his conceptual rigour. He is also author of three books including Torture Taxi (2006), the first book to comprehensively describe the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me (2007), which is a look at top-secret military programmes, and Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon’s Secret World, which is a broader look at secrecy in the United States.
“Paglen (born in 1974) is an American artist, geographer, and author, currently based in New York. His work deliberately blurs lines between science, contemporary art, journalism, and technology to construct unfamiliar, yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us. He has been exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; The Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Institute for Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams; the 2008 Taipei Biennial; the Istanbul Biennial 2009, and numerous other solo and group exhibitions.” From press release. Presented and curated in partnership with Lighthouse.