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Out There
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2010
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Out There, 2006-2010

A geographer by training, Trevor Paglen is engaged perhaps, in the most direct, active, and piercing manner with looking at the landscape of secrets and evasion. He directs his gaze—as well as state-of-the-art photographic equipment—back at those who usually turn their hidden gaze on everyone else. In short, he spies on the intelligence agencies. Paglen looks at that which is explicitly forbidden to be looked at; that which is relegated to the realm that lies somewhere between the "expressly nonexistent," the "top secret," and the "classified." He insists on spotting signs indicating the existence of concealed worlds. He follows espionage satellites, captures experiments of the US army and military industries on camera, locates and shoots "black sites" (unmarked sites where, according to many sources, the various American espionage agencies detain, interrogate, and torture individuals suspected of terrorist activity, away from the restrictive eye of the law). He exposes the badges of secret units, the signatures of "nonexistent people," the code names of agents, operations, and sites.

Somehow, even in his work much of this continues to remain a secret, a tiny dot in a field of color; an abstract image. Prima facie, many of the photographs portray splendid color fields in the style of Turner or Rothko. In others, the few hints at painting are photographed from such huge distances that they call to mind captivating Impressionist blurrings. Instead of bourgeois carriages in Paris, however, these are interspersed with secret aircraft, and instead of sunflower fields we have blazing experiment grounds blooming or shining in the desert. It is a type of photography that employs the most advanced tools—whose development is often funded by military industries and their extensions— to explore and challenge the boundaries of photography itself. How far can one see? What image may be extracted from a secret? How much "truth" lies in the photographic images? What kind of data does a photograph provide? What is the relation between the aesthetics and the (horrifying, engaging, secret) content?

This tension between the pastoral, often sublime beauty that "colors" the photographs, and the knowledge that something unpleasant or unfriendly lurks there, offers great leeway for the viewer to decide how to observe such an image.

Paglen’s photographs demand an ethical stance that goes beyond aesthetics. The responsibility, he tells us (in the spirit of Chomsky) lies squarely with us. It is we who must, amid all this beauty, expose those moments that disturb and disconcert us, and do something with this knowledge that seeks to remain distant and secret. (

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 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis
 

Out There

Out There, 2006-2010

A geographer by training, Trevor Paglen is engaged perhaps, in the most direct, active, and piercing manner with looking at the landscape of secrets and evasion. He directs his gaze—as well as state-of-the-art photographic equipment—back at those who usually turn their hidden gaze on everyone else. In short, he spies on the intelligence agencies. Paglen looks at that which is explicitly forbidden to be looked at; that which is relegated to the realm that lies somewhere between the "expressly nonexistent," the "top secret," and the "classified." He insists on spotting signs indicating the existence of concealed worlds. He follows espionage satellites, captures experiments of the US army and military industries on camera, locates and shoots "black sites" (unmarked sites where, according to many sources, the various American espionage agencies detain, interrogate, and torture individuals suspected of terrorist activity, away from the restrictive eye of the law). He exposes the badges of secret units, the signatures of "nonexistent people," the code names of agents, operations, and sites.

Somehow, even in his work much of this continues to remain a secret, a tiny dot in a field of color; an abstract image. Prima facie, many of the photographs portray splendid color fields in the style of Turner or Rothko. In others, the few hints at painting are photographed from such huge distances that they call to mind captivating Impressionist blurrings. Instead of bourgeois carriages in Paris, however, these are interspersed with secret aircraft, and instead of sunflower fields we have blazing experiment grounds blooming or shining in the desert. It is a type of photography that employs the most advanced tools—whose development is often funded by military industries and their extensions— to explore and challenge the boundaries of photography itself. How far can one see? What image may be extracted from a secret? How much "truth" lies in the photographic images? What kind of data does a photograph provide? What is the relation between the aesthetics and the (horrifying, engaging, secret) content?

This tension between the pastoral, often sublime beauty that "colors" the photographs, and the knowledge that something unpleasant or unfriendly lurks there, offers great leeway for the viewer to decide how to observe such an image.

Paglen’s photographs demand an ethical stance that goes beyond aesthetics. The responsibility, he tells us (in the spirit of Chomsky) lies squarely with us. It is we who must, amid all this beauty, expose those moments that disturb and disconcert us, and do something with this knowledge that seeks to remain distant and secret. (

 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis
 

 The CDA's archives are operating with the support of the Ostrovsky Family Fund and Artis
 

According to Foreign Sources - catalogue
Gilad Melzer
Webs of Secrecy
According to Foreign Sources
Gilad Melzer