Balanced between informative, terrifying and hypnotizing, Trevor Paglen’s large format stills and Harun Farocki’s videos expose arcane arenas of knowledge within the realm of armed-forces operations with imagery that emphasizes the marriage of human and machine vision.
Paglen is invested in revealing our current historical condition, the “bureaucratic sublime,” through exposing covert US satellites, drones over the Nevada desert, concealed military bases, and contractual documents from private aeronautical companies that attest to persistent governmental subterfuge. Landscapes and skies of striking beauty point abstractly to military surveillance. A tiny speck of drone shares the light of the sun with the immense moon in “Dead Military Satellite (DMSP 5D-F11) Near the Disk of the Moon,” 2010. Other satellites are indicated by a contrast of orbital direction in time-lapses of celestial stars and stripes. Paglen also turns the telescope earthwards. “Canyon Hangars and Unidentified Vehicle; Tonopah Test Range, NV; Distance Approx. 18 miles; 12:45pm, 2006” is photographed using a telescopic lens from eighteen miles away. Far off in the desert, the light waves captured by the camera are further distorted by heat, creating a painterly image that conveys not only an inability to accurately apprehend, but suggests a location of imagination, a site for projecting impressions of power or fear. [Read more…]