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Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World Ocula Conversation Hito Steyerl: How To Build a Sustainable Art World

'A Picture of War is Not War', we read in Hito Steyerl's iconic film November (2004), an essayistic Super 8 film tackling the definition of terrorism constructed around the figure of the artist's best friend Andrea Wolf, who was killed as a terrorist in 1998 in Eastern Anatolia after she joined the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party). Mixing documentary...

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Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future Ocula Report Aichi to Okayama: Art in Japan Looks to the Future 11 Oct 2019 : Stephanie Bailey for Ocula

There has been a flurry of triennial and biennial art activity in Japan this year. The Aichi Triennale opened in Nagoya this August, sparking a national debate about the shutting down of a display of formerly censored works—the result of public backlash against a burnt image of Emperor Hirohito and a statue commemorating the women forced into...

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Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough Ocula Insight | Video
Sponsored Content | Mazzoleni Gallery
Hans Hartung and Art Informel: Exhibition Walkthrough 15 October 2019

Hans Hartung and Art Informel at Mazzoleni London (1 October 2019-18 January 2020) presents key works by the French-German painter while highlighting his connection with artists active in Paris during the 50s and 60s. In this video, writer and historian Alan Montgomery discusses Hartung's practice and its legacy.Born in Leipzig in 1904, Hans...

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Trevor Paglen

b. 1974, USA

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.

Biography by Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2017
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Featured Artworks

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Current & Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Trevor Paglen, The Shape of Clouds at Pace Gallery, Geneva
Open Now
4 September–24 October 2019 Trevor Paglen The Shape of Clouds Pace Gallery, Geneva
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Ghost Nets at Galería OMR, Mexico City
Closed
24 May–30 June 2018 Group Exhibition Ghost Nets Galería OMR, Mexico City

Represented By

In Ocula Magazine

Gwangju Biennale: Imagined Borders Ocula Report Gwangju Biennale: Imagined Borders 20 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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In Related Press

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600,000 Images Removed from AI Database After Art Project Exposes Racist Bias Related Press 600,000 Images Removed from AI Database After Art Project Exposes Racist Bias Hyperallergic : 23 September 2019

ImageNet will remove 600,000 images of people stored on its database after an art project exposed racial bias in the program's artificial intelligence system.Created in 2009 by researchers at Princeton and Stanford, the online image database has been widely used by machine learning projects.

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Trevor Paglen’s ‘Orbital Reflector’ Asks Who Gets to Exercise Power Over our Planetary Commons Related Press Trevor Paglen’s ‘Orbital Reflector’ Asks Who Gets to Exercise Power Over our Planetary Commons Frieze : 24 January 2019

US photographer Trevor Paglen, best known for his striking images of telecommunications and national security infrastructure, studies 'ungraspable architecture': radio wave transmissions, secret missile ranges, N.S.A. choke points, surveillance and combat drones that alter the very conditions of visibility. His geographic research and photography...

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Artes Mundi 8: Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul wins £40,000 prize Related Press Artes Mundi 8: Filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul wins £40,000 prize BBC News : 24 January 2019

Indie Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul has won the £40,000 Artes Mundi contemporary art prize.The judges said his film Invisibility was 'a powerful weapon in these turbulent times'.The 48-year-old gave a UK premiere to his dream-like work, projected over two screens and showing two figures rising from their beds in separate rooms.He was...

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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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