Good storytelling strengthens social movements
Niels Van Tomme writes:
Trevor Paglen is a writer and “experimental geographer” holding a Ph.D. in geography from Berkeley. His thought-provoking visual artworks deliberately blur the lines between social science, contemporary art, political theory, and activism. Constructing unusual but meticulously researched reinterpretations of our world, Paglen is an artist whose work is so radically new that it forces viewers to redefine what constitutes art.
In 2005, he was the first to observe and photograph the airplanes used by the CIA for their “extraordinary rendition” program, the extrajudicial transfer of people from one country to another. Paglen later published his findings in a book called Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA’s Rendition Flights. For his ongoing project The Expeditions, he leads excursions to document the way hidden military activities shape landscapes and to view infrastructure whose very existence is sometimes classified.
NIELS VAN TOMME: In the past years you have been investigating the world of “black” military operations. Can you explain what those are?
TREVOR PAGLEN: I look at military intelligence operations that are undertaken in secret, ranging from surveillance satellites to weapons testing to more operational stuff like the “extraordinary rendition program. There is a wide range of things.
VAN TOMME: Doing this kind of advanced research, uncovering secret worlds, provides you with a remarkable starting point as an artist. How do you represent something that officially does not exist? How do you get access to a world that is totally kept secret?
PAGLEN: Well, I do not gain access more often than I do, which becomes part of my process. It’s something that happens over and over again in my work. In fact that’s something I am trying to capture: the moment when something becomes visible but remains unintelligible, when you find evidence of absence in a certain sense. For my project Symbology, I compiled patches, insignia and symbols referring to secret military programs. Strangely enough, this “black world” is rich with such symbolic imagery, even though it affiliates someone with deeply held secrets. Again, when these patches get displayed they give you clues to what some of these programs might be, but they do not tell you what they are. Nevertheless, you know that there is something.
Continue reading for the full interview.
Reposted from Foreign Policy In Focus
Selected tag: Army
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Régine Debatty writes about the intersection between art, design and technology on her blog we-make-money-not-art.com.
She also contributes to various design and art magazines, curates art shows and lectures internationally.