Trevor Paglen blurs the lines between art, science, and investigative journalism to construct unfamiliar and at times unsettling ways to see and interpret the world around us. Inspired by the landscape tradition, he captures the same horizon seen by American photographers Timothy O’Sullivan in the nineteenth century and Ansel Adams in the twentieth. Only in Paglen’s photographs is the infrastructure of surveillance also apparent—a classified military installation, a spy satellite, a tapped communications cable, a drone, an artificial intelligence.
A midcareer survey of this MacArthur Award–winning artist, this catalogue presents Paglen’s early photographic series alongside his recent sculptural objects and new work with artificial intelligence. Curator and author John P. Jacob explores Paglen’s photographs, which show things that we are not meant to see but that Paglen considers symptomatic of our time. If those images are unsettling, Paglen’s sculptural works help us to imagine a potentially different world. Author Luke Skrebowski takes up these “impossible objects” in his probing essay. With more than 170 illustrations, Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen provides insight into this conceptual artist with activist intentions. Helping to better see the particular moment we live in and envisioning alternative futures are among his chief concerns.