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Art Taipei 2018 Ocula Report Art Taipei 2018 10 November 201810 Nov 2018 : Diana d’Arenberg for Ocula

'There is nothing more boring than the story of decline,' a journalist remarked at an art criticism panel I attended the evening before making the trip to see Art Taipei (26–29 October 2018). As I attended the opening night of Asia's oldest art fair, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, those words rang in my head. Wandering up and down...

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Charwei Tsai Ocula Conversation Charwei Tsai

Taiwanese artist Charwei Tsai's memorising and compulsive writing of the Heart Sutra—a Buddhist scripture that distills the wisdom of impermanence—is at the heart of her practice. Over the past ten years, Tsai has moved from writing to drawing, photography, and film—a selection of which is being presented at the Centre for Chinese...

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Crush at Para Site: What if you couldn’t have it? Ocula Report Crush at Para Site: What if you couldn’t have it? 10 November 201810 Nov 2018 : Hera Chan for Ocula

Drawn on paper by Oscar Chan Yik Long in gestural black ink strokes, Cupid (2015) greets visitors with a sinister toothy smile as they enter Para Site. The strikingly fearsome figure is positioned on the wall of the gallery's entrance, near one of Chen Dandizi's vertical neon tube lights, part of the series 'Tick Away' (2015), along which a...

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Trevor Paglen was born in 1974 at an Air Force base in Maryland where his father was an ophthalmologist. He grew up on bases in the USA and Germany. A former prison-rights activist, Paglen's photographs often depict classified military activity. Previous series have featured a National Security Agency's eavesdropping complex, an Israeli nuclear weapons facility and a secret CIA prison. The images are always shot from public land. Consequentially, they are often blurred, sometimes even indecipherable. This tendency is embraced by Paglen as emphasising the secretive nature of the establishments from which he is attempting to gather information.

Trained in geography and photography, Paglen's photographs investigate the contemporary American surveillance state. However, he does not aim for perfectly crisp images and understands his photos cannot be used as evidence; he instead wants his work to wake the viewer up to what is going on around them, lurking just below the surface. Carefully keeping within the law, Paglen has photographed military facilities, stealth drones and information-gathering satellites. Through a practice that generally encompasses journalism, engineering, history, politics, photography and more, Paglen has explored the accountability or lack thereof of covert or offshore bases and more broadly the relationship between public and private information. While his works usually take the form of large-scale photographic prints, he has also made installations and films. In 2007 he published a book called I Could Tell You but Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me—a collection of photographs of military patches representing various covert projects undertaken by American personnel.

The work of drones has grown more prolific in military activity of recent years and has accordingly increased in presence in Paglen's work. They are interesting to him not only for their murderous power, but for how they rewire methods of seeing and our understanding of distance. Underlying Paglen's process is a determination towards an awareness of what is hidden. In his photographs of drones, the drones are mere dots on beautiful skies. As a viewer it is a struggle to drag your attention away from the stunning view of the clouds, to find that small dot that is the drone. This spot, however, represents surveillance and potentially death, and is dangerous to ignore.

Paglen uses his research and art to gain new perspectives on the contemporary political moment in its historical context, as well as imagining possible futures. With the help of Creative Time and MIT, in 2012 Paglen launched a disc micro-etched with 100 photographs into distant orbit around Earth. The disc is surrounded by a gold-plated shell and is designed to last billions of years. The project acts as a time capsule for future generations or aliens, or perhaps humankind's successor. The Last Pictures, a critical compendium, documents this project and the process of choosing the 100 photographs. Paglen received his BA from University of California, Berkeley, MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and PhD in Geography from University of California, Berkeley. His PhD dissertation was altered and published under the title Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Hidden World. In 2014 he received the Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer Award and in 2016 he was awarded the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize.

Paglen lives and works in Berlin.

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Ghost Nets at Galería OMR,
Closed
24 May–30 June 2018 Group Exhibition Ghost NetsGalería OMR, Mexico City
Contemporary art exhibition, Trevor Paglen, A Study of Invisible Images at Metro Pictures,
Closed
8 September–21 October 2017 Trevor Paglen A Study of Invisible ImagesMetro Pictures, New York

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Ocula Magazine

Imagined Borders at the 12th Gwangju Biennale Ocula Report Imagined Borders at the 12th Gwangju Biennale 20 September 201820 Sep 2018 : Tessa Moldan for Ocula

'I have felt persecuted for weeks by this same asphyxiating dream.' So narrates the forlorn Portuguese speaker in Kiluanji Kia Henda's film, Concrete Affection – Zopo Lady (2014), as city scenes and modernist buildings in Luanda flit past the camera's lens. The narration is pulled from Another Day of Life (1971), Polish writer Ryszard Kapuscinski's...

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Related Press

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The Striking Election-Season Billboards That Are Also Art Related Press The Striking Election-Season Billboards That Are Also Art Vanity Fair : 8 October 2018

The billboards going up around the country this week will have a familiar message for this midterm election: Vote. But featuring images of protests and reminders of the 2016 election, produced by some of the country's best-known artists, the billboards—one for each of the 50 states—will look nothing like your average political...

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Trevor Paglen reveals the hidden networks that rule our lives Related Press Trevor Paglen reveals the hidden networks that rule our lives Apollo : 16 July 2018

If there is a central purpose that guides the eclectic work of Trevor Paglen, it is perhaps the desire to create art that, as he said during a recent lecture, 'gives us a tiny glimpse of how the rules of the world might be different'. In Sites Unseen, an expansive survey that recently opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington,...

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how has the internet changed the way we interact with art? Related Press how has the internet changed the way we interact with art? i-D Vice : 26 June 2018

The state of the "millennial" is a complex and nebulous thing. Some define Generation X by its widespread affinity for decorative succulents. Some note an eye for a very specific, and hotly debated, shade of apricot-salmon pink. Others scorn millennials for the remorseless, cold-blooded murder of wine corks, the napkin industry, and...

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How Important is Art as a Form of Protest? Related Press How Important is Art as a Form of Protest? Frieze : 3 April 2017

Given the current political climate, we here at frieze have been reflecting on the role of art in responding to conflict. With this in mind, we invited a cross-section of artists, curators and writers to answer two deceptively simple questions: ‘How important is art as a form of protest?’ and ‘How effective is it as a conduit of change?’ Responses...

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