At the intersection of science, contemporary art and journalism, Trevor Paglen constructs unfamiliar yet meticulously researched ways to see and interpret the world around us
Artist Trevor Paglen developed his work The Last Pictures through years of research and consultation with leading philosophers, scientists, engineers, artists and historians. While in residence at MIT, he worked with researchers Professor Karl. K. Berggren of the MIT Research Lab for Electronics, Associate Professor Brian L. Wardle from the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and graduate student Adam McCaughan from the Quantum Nanostructure and Nanofabrication Group to explore materials and fabricate a lightweight, encodable, ultra-durable silicon wafer etched with images using specialized equipment in the Quantum Nanostructure and Nanofabrication lab at MIT.
The Last Pictures originates from the idea that the communications satellites in Earth’s orbit will ultimately become the cultural and material ruins of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, far outlasting anything else humans have created. These geostationary satellites, located above the equator at an altitude of 24,000 miles, experience no atmospheric drag, and will remain in orbit until our sun expands into a red giant and engulfs the earth about 4.5 billion years from now. The Last Pictures imagines a future Earth where there is no evidence of human civilization beyond the derelict spacecraft left behind in our planet’s orbit.
Paglen returned to MIT in spring 2017 as a presenter in the “Being Material” Symposium. He joined Sandy Alexandre, George Barbastathis, Michelle Murphy and Lisa Parks in a session titled “Invisible,” exploring today’s shifting lines between the visible and the invisible. Panelists discussed cloaking, “operational” machine seeing, clandestine or surveillance media and other technologies that change what it means to see and be material.
Trevor Paglen is an artist and geographer who explores and documents invisible infrastructures, ranging from secret corporate and government sites to networks known through technologies of non-human, machine vision. Paglen’s work spans through image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering and numerous other disciplines.
Among Paglen’s chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. Paglen’s work has had one-person exhibitions at Vienna Secession, Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Van Abbe Museum, Frankfurter Kunstverein, and Protocinema Istanbul, and participated in group exhibitions the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern and numerous other venues.
Trevor Paglen has earned international renown for uniting disparate worlds to create works that explore and document hidden worlds. The New York Times has described him as a “geographer by training, a conspiracy theorist by instinct, and an investigative reporter by avocation.” He uses photography, video, data and other uncommon sources to create artworks that reveal the unexpected and the profound.
More at the artist’s website: Trevor Paglen.
The Other Night Sky: Destiny, Warfare, and Ruins among the Stars
September 30, 2012
The Last Pictures: An Artist Talk
November 7, 2011
Artistic Practice and Trans-disciplinary Research
A presentation to MIT Art Scholars
September 28, 2011
Introduction to Visual Art
September 29, 2011
MIT Research Lab for Electronics, Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Quantum Nanostructure and Nanofabrication Group
Fall 2011 and Spring 2012
List Visual Art Center
September 26, 2011
MIT Anthropology Department
September 27, 2011
“Paglen’s work in experimental geography has produced powerful insights into the photographic calibrations between the visible and the invisible”
— Pamela M. Lee, ArtForum, Open Secret: the work of art between disclosure and redaction
“Paglen welcomes distortion in his images because his aim is not to expose and edify so much as to confound and unsettle.”
“One should not forget that Paglen, the artist, is also a geographer. He does not simply remix the two disciplines in a postmodern mélange but moves deliberately between them, developing what I call an extradisciplinary practice that alters both departure points.”
— Brian Holmes, Visiting the Planetarium: Images of the Black World
Brian Holms: Visiting the Planetarium: Images of the Black World
California Magazine: Strange Renderings, the secret geographies of Trevor Paglen
The Last Pictures is a collaboration with Creative Time
New England Journal of Aesthetic Research: Trevor Paglen at MIT
San Francisco Chronicle book review: The Last Pictures by Trevor Paglen
Frieze Magazine: Horror Vacui
Azra Aksamija, Associate Professor, MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Sofia Berinstein, graduate of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Karl K. Berggren, Associate Professor, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and part of The Last Pictures development team.
Jack Costanza, Assistant Director in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory
Renée Green, Associate Professor of Architecture and Director of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Paul Ha, Director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, was part of The Last Pictures development team.
Stefan Helmreich, Elting E. Morison Professor of Anthropology
Everett Lawson, graduate of the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology
Mark Linga, Educator/Public Relations Officer at the List Visual Arts Center, was part of The Last Pictures development team development team.
Adam McCaughan, Research Assistant in the Quantum Nanostructures and Nanofabrication group, and was part of The Last Pictures development team.
Joao Ribas, Curator at the MIT List Visual Arts Center was part of The Last Pictures development team.
Anya Ventura, Research Coordinator and Office of the Arts Intern, was part of The Last Pictures research team.
Brian L. Wardle, Associate Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Director, NECSTlab and Nano-Engineered Composite Aerospace Structures Consortium, was part of The Last Pictures development team.
Elizabeth Watkins, Graduate Student in the MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology