KEYHOLE 12 – 3 (IMPROVED CRYSTAL) Optical Reconnaissance Satellite Near Scorpio (USA 129)

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Copied Trevor Paglen, KEYHOLE 12-3 (IMPROVED CRYSTAL) Optical Reconnaissance Satellite Near Scorpio (USA 129), 2007, reprinted 2019, chromogenic print, overall: 60 × 48 in. (152.4 × 121.9 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mike Wilkins & Sheila Duignan, 2019.36

Artwork Details

KEYHOLE 12 – 3 (IMPROVED CRYSTAL) Optical Reconnaissance Satellite Near Scorpio (USA 129)
2007, reprinted 2019
Not on view
overall: 60 × 48 in. (152.4 × 121.9 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Mike Wilkins & Sheila Duignan
Mediums Description
chromogenic print
Object Number

Artwork Description

For The Other Night Sky series, Paglen turned to the heavens to ask, "What does aerospace surveillance look like?" To photograph objects in space, he used cameras fitted with powerful lenses attached to a computer-controlled mount. The computer calibrated his location in relation to those of common stars, and the mount rotated the cameras to offset the Earth's rotation. Here Paglen captures orbiting spy satellites, whose locations he identified through research and whose movement can be predicted with great accuracy. The titles of the photographs identify the remote subjects and their intelligence-gathering functions. Some pictures in this series document active intelligence gathering and space debris; others refer to earlier photographers and the tradition of landscape photography. Altogether, the series exposes a celestial surveillance infrastructure with extraordinary imaging and targeting capacities that operate in real time. As Paglen looked up at the sky, machines returned his gaze.