June 21, 2018
One of the great pleasures of working at the Smithsonian American Art Museum is having the opportunity to see how things are done behind the scenes. In this case, the museum's team is installing Trevor Paglen's "Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 4)." It hangs in the Lincoln Gallery near the corridor leading to the exhibition Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen, the artist's mid-career retrospective that investigates the themes of surveillance, secrecy, privacy and democracy, opening today at SAAM. The "Satellite" serves no intelligence-gathering function. Instead, it invites viewers to imagine gazing into a night sky where the machinery of surveillance is not looking back at us.