Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen

Friday, Feb 22, 2019-Sunday, Jun 02, 2019
Trevor Paglen
STSS-1 and Two Unidentified Spacecraft Over Carson City (Space Tracking and Surveillance System, USA 205)
2010, C-print. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mike Wilkins and Sheila Duignan © 2010, Trevor Paglen. Photo by: Gene Young.

Featured Artists

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 (AI).

Paglen’s photographs show something we are not meant to see, whose concealment he regards as symptomatic of the historical moment we inhabit. His objects act in opposition to what his images have exposed, imagining another and potentially different world. Paglen is a conceptual artist with activist intentions. Helping to better see the particular moment we live in and producing spaces in which to envision alternative futures are among his chief concerns.

Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen is a mid-career survey of the MacArthur Award-winning artist, the first exhibition to present Paglen’s early photographic series alongside his recent sculptural objects and new work with AI.

Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen originated at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM) and is organized by John Jacob, SAAM's McEvoy Family Curator for Photography. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.

Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The C.F. Foundation in Atlanta supports the museum’s traveling exhibition program, Treasures To Go.