86_PF03_Paglen_They Watch the Moon
Trevor Paglen They Watch the Moon, 2010, de la série | from the series The Limit Telephotography. Photo : permission de | courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York & Altman Siegel, San Francisco

In exploring the limits of the visible through the U.S. military landscape, Trevor Paglen has two objectives: to discover secret infrastructures and to make images of these “non-existent” geographic sites. His two most recent projects, of which the series The Limit Telephotography is a part, offer a cartography of “black sites” created for obscure purposes by the American intelligence community (technological experimentation zones, artillery test sites, and radio surveillance sectors, for example). As these military spaces are built in remote places and encircled by wide security perimeters, they are both inaccessible and impossible to observe directly. Paglen’s photographs play on this threshold of visibility: taken from the peaks of nearby mountains with optical instruments of the type used in astrophysics, the images are blurry, the landscapes abstract, and their evidence ambiguous. In the series The Other Night Sky, Paglen shifts his interest from the terrestrial presence of military power to its occupation of interstellar space: using time-lapse photography, he captures the tracings of light made by the orbital trajectories of secret satellites. Somewhere between field investigation and artistic approach, his hybrid working method, which he calls experimental geography, reveals a topography of power that draws its strength from the collective imagination and, in doing this, turns the surveillance apparatus on itself.

You must have a valid Digital or Premium subscription to access this content

Subscribe to Esse now to read the full text!

This article also appears in the issue 86 – Geopolitics - Géopolitique

Suggested Reading