From "The Other Night Sky" series, 2007; C-Print, 48 x 60 inches

Sites Unseen & Orbital Reflector

Trevor Paglen is an artist and writer whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, and engineering. With a PhD in geography from the University of California, Berkeley, Paglen blurs disciplinary boundaries in unfamiliar and at times unsettling ways. Inspired by the landscape tradition, he revisits the same horizon captured by photographers Timothy O’Sullivan in the nineteenth century and Ansel Adams in the twentieth. But in Paglen’s photographs the infrastructure of surveillance is also apparent—a classified military installation, a spy satellite, a tapped communications cable, a drone, or some manifestation of artificial intelligence (AI).

Paglen’s photographs show something we are not meant to see, something whose concealment he regards as symptomatic of our historical moment. By opening the viewer’s eyes to this hidden reality, he hopes to inspire the imagination of alternative futures and actions to realize these visions.

Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen, on display from June 21, 2018, through January 6, 2019, at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), is a mid-career survey, the first exhibition to present Paglen’s early photographic series alongside his recent sculptural objects and new work with AI. The exhibit will travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Diego, on display from February 22 through June 2, 2019. The exhibit is organized by John Jacob, SAAM’s McEvoy Family Curator for Photography.

In addition, Trevor Paglen: Orbital Reflector, on display at the Nevada Museum of Art through January 31, 2019, presents archived materials generated from the Orbital Reflector project housed in the Museum’s Center for Art + Environment.

Visit Trevor Paglen’s homepage here:

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Cite this Article

Paglen, Trevor. “Sites Unseen & Orbital Reflector.” Issues in Science and Technology 35, no. 2 (Winter 2019).

Vol. XXXV, No. 2, Winter 2019