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Trevor Paglen

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Them: Give us a billion dollars!

Us: What for?

Them: None of your f*cking business.

Us: Oh... Alright then. Here you are.

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Trevor Paglen makes photographs that allow us to see the things that are done in our name at great cost to us, but about which we are not allowed to know.

He photographs scenes on secret military bases from points miles away, outside the perimeter fence, or 'secret' sites that are actually plainly visible if you know what to look for ("San Diego is a Secret Base").

left align imageHe makes photographs of the night sky showing the transits of military reconnaissance satellites passing overhead.

I have been primarily inspired by the methods of early astronomers like Kepler and Galileo, who documented previously-unseen moons of Jupiter in the early 17th Century. Like contemporary reconnaissance satellites, Jupiter’s moons weren’t supposed to “exist,” but were nonetheless there. With this series, I want to ask what it means to see the traces of “secret moons” in the contemporary night sky.

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He photographs military patches denoting the wearer's affiliation with secret projects and whose existence perhaps betrays the urge to tell of that of which one must not tell. Here, a complex iconography of pop-culture cartoon symbols appears in juxtaposition with solemn-looking latin inscriptions that turn out to convey ridiculous (or cryptic) messages.

The significance of Paglen's photography does not lie so much in individual images, but in the way they work collectively. The use of photography to collect evidence of something big and mysterious whose meaning is often ambiguous. They represent fragments of the physical and mental landscapes containing the secrets and mysteries that pervade the military-industrial-academic complex in which all our lives are embedded.


Edited by Peter
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