Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Guardian, said that Paglen, whose "ongoing grand project [is] the murky world of global state surveillance and the ethics of drone warfare", "is one of the most conceptually adventurous political artists working today, and has collaborated with scientists and human rights activists on his always ambitious multimedia projects."
In 2016, he won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize and he has also won The Cultural Award from the German Society for Photography. In 2017, he was a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant.
Life and work
Paglen earned a B.A. in 1998 from the University of California at Berkeley, a Master of Fine Arts degree in 2002 from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in geography in 2008 from the University of California at Berkeley, where he currently works as a researcher. While at UC Berkeley, Paglen lived in the Berkeley Student Cooperative, residing in Chateau, Rochdale, Fenwick, and Convent co-ops.
Paglen has published a number of books. Torture Taxi (2006), (co-authored with investigative journalist Adam Clay Thompson) was the first book to comprehensively describe the CIA's extraordinary rendition program. I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me (2007), is a look at the world of black projects through unit patches and memorabilia created for top-secret programs. Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World (2009) is a broader look at secrecy in the United States. The Last Pictures (2012) is a collection of 100 images to be placed on permanent media and launched into space on EchoStar XVI, as a repository available for future civilizations (alien or human) to find.
Sean O'Hagan, writing in The Guardian, said that Paglen, whose "ongoing grand project [is] the murky world of global state surveillance and the ethics of drone warfare", "is one of the most conceptually adventurous political artists working today, and has collaborated with scientists and human rights activists on his always ambitious multimedia projects." His visual work such as his "Limit Telephotography" and "The Other Night Sky" series have received widespread attention for both his technical innovations and for his conceptual project that involves simultaneously making and negating documentary-style truth-claims.
He was an Eyebeam Commissioned Artist in 2007.
Paglen is featured in the nerd culture documentary Traceroute.
Publications by Paglen
- I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2007. ISBN 1-933633-32-8.
- Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World. New York: Dutton, 2009. ISBN 9781101011492.
- Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes, Photographs by Trevor Paglen. New York: Aperture, 2010. ISBN 9781597111300. With an essay by Rebecca Solnit.
- The Last Pictures. Oakland, CA: University of California, 2012. ISBN 9780520275003.
- Trevor Paglen. London: Phaidon, 2018. ISBN 0714873446. With essays by Laren Cornell, Julia Bryan-Wilson, Omar Kholeif.
Publications paired with others
- Torture Taxi. Co-authored with Adam Clay Thompson. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1-933633-09-3.
Publications with contributions by Paglen
- Experimental Geography - Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism. Brooklyn, NY: Melville House, 2009. ISBN 978-0091636586. Edited by Nato Thompson. With essays by Paglen, Thompson, and Jeffrey Kastner.
- Trevor Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum - Autonomy Cube. Revolver, 2016. ISBN 978-3957633026. Essays by Luke Skrebowski and Keller Easterling on Autonomy Cube, a piece of sculpture by Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum. In English and German.
Paglen has shown photography and other visual works.
- Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, Massachusetts
- Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art, Medzilaborce, Slovakia
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
- Bellwether Gallery, New York, November–December 2006.
- Still Revolution: Suspended in Time, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, May–June 2009. Group exhibition with Paglen, Barbara Astman, Walead Beshty, Mat Collishaw, Stan Douglas, Idris Khan, Martha Rosler, and Mikhael Subotzky.
- Geographies of Seeing, Lighthouse, Brighton, England, October–November 2012
- Trevor Paglen, Altman Siegel gallery, San Francisco, CA, March–May 2015
- Autonomy Cube, Edith-Russ-Haus, Oldenburg, Germany, October 2015 – January 2016. Sculpture by Paglen and Jacob Appelbaum.
- Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2016, The Photographers' Gallery, London, April–July 2016. Deutsche Börse Photography Prize shortlist with Paglen, Erik Kessels, Laura El-Tantawy, and Tobias Zielony.
- Radical Landscapes, di Rosa, Napa, February–April 2016
- A Study of Invisible Images, Metro Pictures, New York, September–October 2017
Paglen is credited with coining the term "Experimental Geography" to describe practices coupling experimental cultural production and art-making with ideas from critical human geography about the production of space, materialism, and praxis. The 2009 book Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism is largely inspired by Paglen's work.
- 2014: Pioneer Award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
- 2015: The Cultural Award from the German Society for Photography (DGPh)
- 2016: Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize
- 2017: MacArthur Fellow, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Chicago, IL
- 2018: Nam June Paik Art Center Prize
Paglen's work is held in the following public collections:
- Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH
- San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Headquarters of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield, Virginia
- Beckman, Karen (2007). "Telescopes, Transparency, and Torture: Trevor Paglen and the Politics of Exposure," Art Journal 66.3
- Belisle, Brooke (2014). “I See the Moon, The Moon Sees Me: Trevor Paglen’s Satellite Views," Media-N special issue on Art & Infrastructures: Hardware, vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 2014).
- Belisle, Brooke "Artifacts: Trevor Paglen’s Frontier Photography" in Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life edited by Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth (New York: Punctum Books, 2012). ISBN 0615766366
- Gustafsson, Henrick (2013). "Foresight, Hindsight and State Secrecy in the American West: The Geopolitical Aesthetics of Trevor Paglen" in Journal of Visual Culture, vol. 12, 1: pp. 148-164.
- Lind, Maria (2016). "Center Stage: Trevor Paglen," Kaleidoscope 26.
- Perini, Julie (2010). "Art as Intervention: A Guide to Today's Radical Art Practices". In Team Colors Collective (ed.). Uses of a Whirlwind: Movement, Movements, and Contemporary Radical Currents in the United States. AK Press. ISBN 9781849350167.
- Smudge Studio "The Uneven Time of Space Debris: An Interview with Trevor Paglen" in Making the Geologic Now: Responses to Material Conditions of Contemporary Life edited by Jamie Kruse and Elizabeth Ellsworth (New York: Punctum Books, 2012). ISBN 0615766366
- Stallabrass, Julian (2011). "Negative Dialectics in the Google Era: A Conversation with Trevor Paglen," October 138.
- Thompson, Nato (ed). Experimental Geography: Radical Approaches to Landscape, Cartography, and Urbanism (Melville House Publishing, 2009, ISBN 978-0-09-163658-6
- Van Tome, Niels (2015). Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen. ISBN 1890761192, 9781890761196
- Weiner, Jonah (2012). "Prying Eyes: Trevor Paglen Makes Art Out of Government Secrets," New Yorker, October 22, 2012.
- Gamerman, Ellen (12 September 2013). "The Fine Art of Spying". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
- O'Hagan, Sean (5 November 2015). "Deutsche Börse photography prize shortlist: drones v the women of Tahrir". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- Violet Bramley, Ellie (5 November 2015). "Trevor Paglen's drone photography wins 2016 Deutsche Börse prize". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 27 April 2016.
- "The Cultural Award of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh)". Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie e.V.. Accessed 7 March 2017.
- "Trevor Paglen". MacArthur Foundation.
- Logos offer a guide to secret military programs, International Herald Tribune, April 2, 2008.
- Paglen, Trevor "Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World" New York: Dutton, 2009
- "The Book".
- Keenan, Tom. "Disappearances: The Photographs of Trevor Paglen" Aperture, No. 191. Summer 2008
- Trevor Paglen show at Bellwether Gallery in 2006
- "Still Revolution: Suspended in Time". Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art. 28 April 2009. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
- Trevor Paglen show at Lighthouse in 2012
- "Geographies of Seeing".
- "Trevor Paglen at Lighthouse in Brighton". Wired. 2012-10-07.
- O'Hagan, Sean (16 August 2012). "Political, provocative, personal: photography to look forward to". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
- "Trevor Paglen | Altman Siegel".
- Helfand, Glen (2015-03-13). "Trevor Paglen review: Turning the NSA's data combing into high-concept art". The Guardian.
- "The Artist Using Museums to Amplify Tor's Anonymity Network". Wired. April 2016.
- "Radical Landscapes". January 2016.
- "Trevor Paglen - Exhibitions - Metro Pictures".
- Nato Thompson interview in The Nation
- "EFF Pioneer Awards 2014".
- "Meet the 2017 MacArthur Fellows". MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved 19 October 2017.
- "Trevor Paglen Wins 2018 Nam June Paik Art Center Prize".
- "Embark Collection". 2016-01-27.
- "Columbus Museum of Art acquires Andy Warhol and Trevor Paglen works of art".
- "Trevor Paglen · SFMOMA".
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