Trevor Paglen at Bellwether

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Trevor Paglen Janet Pass By/Cactus Flat, NV/Distance ~19 miles 2006 2-minute video loop [still from video installation]

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Trevor Paglen The Workers/Las Vegas, NV/Distance ~1 mile 2006 8-minute video loop [still from video installation]


The still and video images each look like they were grabbed from some totally benign context, even when you've already begun to understand the artist's intentions, but soon the identity of the reality represented by these documents begins to register with a thud. Although Trevor Paglen's powerful and disturbingly beautiful multi-media installation can be seen at Bellwether until December 23, it is decidely not a holiday excursion.

From the press release:

Over the last five years, Trevor Paglen has developing unique visual strategies to explore the "black world" of classified military and intelligence activities. To produce his photographs of secret military installations Paglen uses powerful telescopes and employs astronomical techniques to capture his subject from dozens of miles away - a proprietary technique he terms "Limit-Telephotography." The sheer distances, heat, and atmospheric distortions captured in his work result in photographs that often take on the qualities of impressionistic paintings.

Paglen is the first and only person to have photographed several of the CIA's "black sites" overseas - a collection of secret prisons whose existence (but not locations) the CIA has only recently acknowledged. These never-before-seen photographs will also be on display. Other works on view include a diverse collection of patches and symbols worn by people working on secret military programs - programs that do not officially "exist" - and forged signatures from the corporate documents of CIA front companies.

By confronting us with images of a world that cannot be seen with the naked eye, and that do not "officially" exist, Paglen asks the viewer to meditate on the limits of vision, abstraction and the nature of evidence as he performs a series of stunning interventions into the history of landscape photography.

The almost certainly deliberate antiseptic, virtually laboratorial environment of the installation only increases their horror. Trevor Paglen's "Black World" at Bellwether gallery is actually our world. None of us needs his 7000mm lens to discover the reality of government terror conducted in our name around the world, but we can be grateful to Paglan, and Bellwether, for the art which will make its face impossible to forget.

Trevor was one of three speakers included in a panel at MIT this October dealing with extraordinary rendition. Gracefully and passionately he was able to illuminate his primary point: these operations are not only run/hidden/employed in foreign countries but within the U.S.; and within the most benign places (small towns, suburban law offices, etc.). He talked of the importance of one woman speaking out within a small community shielding a black-ops runway, and her attempt to persuade her fellow townspeople to no longer "see no evil, speak no evil." Trevor is impassioned by the information he has and will discover. Check out his co-authored book, "Torture Taxi," for more.