Thursday, October 27 | 7 pm | FREE
Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium, Utah Museum of Fine Arts
So much of what we know about the world, we learn through images: documentary photographs, maps, selfies, diagrams, satellite images, and so on. We are inundated with images that structure our world, drive our interests, and shape our thoughts. But, in actuality, so much exists outside the frame of the common image. Enter Trevor Paglen, the artist, cinematographer, geographer, researcher, and writer who makes the invisible visible.
Paglen’s presentation at the UMFA on Thursday, October 27, will open your eyes. Since Paglen last visited Salt Lake City in 2009, he has contributed research and cinematography to Citizenfour, the Academy Award–winning film about Edward Snowden; made deep dives to locate the Internet under our oceans; and launched into Earth’s orbit a visual artifact containing 100 micro-etched contemporary images.
Using the newest technologies, Paglen’s photographs, videos, sculptures, books, and interdisciplinary projects uncover some of the top-secret infrastructures that define our present: drone surveillance, information super-highways, satellite communications, and remote government operations for weapons testing, torture camps, and data storage. His urgent work, often described as experimental geography, underscores the power of the image in democracy, bringing classified programs and secret initiatives to the public’s attention. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures.
Here in Utah, our remote lands hold many secrets. We have enough “empty” space to do private things like test and store chemical weapons, train drone-pilots, build and test rocket boosters, and simulate lunar and Martian landscapes for scientists and moviemakers. In our backyard, the Department of Defense operates the Hill Air Force Base, the Utah Test and Training Range, the Dugway Proving Ground, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal Facility, and most recently the NSA Utah Data Center, where all domestic surveillance data from “all available sources all the time, every time, always” is collected, processed, and stored.
With the goal of examining our present time and making similar sites and their covert operations more visible to the public, the UMFA acquired four photographs by artist Trevor Paglen in 2008, which are featured below. Part of his Limit Telephotography series, each photograph reveals classified military industrial complex sites in the deserts of the western United States that are regularly hidden from civilian eyes. Because vast expanses of restricted land border the sites, the artist had to use a high-powered astrophotography telescope from miles away to capture their images, which are often blurry as a result of distance, dust, and heat waves.
The heavily guarded Gold Coast Terminal operates a Department of Defense airline out of the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. The airline ferries hundreds of DoD workers daily to and from restricted sites in the Nevada Ranges. Morning Commute (Gold Coast Terminal) Las Vegas, NV/Distance - 1 mile 6:26 a.m., 2006, C-print, 30 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.1.
Cactus Flat, Nevada, is the home of the Nellis Air Force Range and the Tonopah Test Range, a restricted military installation currently used for nuclear weapons stockpile reliability testing, research and development of fusing and firing systems, and testing nuclear weapon delivery systems. Control Tower/Cactus Flat, NV/11:15 a.m./Distance - 20 miles, 2006, C-print, 31 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.2.
Illuminated Hangars, Tonopah Test Range, NV/Distance - 18 miles/9:08 p.m., 2006, C-print, 30 x 36 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper
Dugway Proving Ground, located about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, is a U.S. Army facility that tests biological and chemical weapon defense systems and trains the U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard, and Air Force. Chemical and Biological Weapons Proving Ground/Dugway, UT/Distance - 22 miles/11:17 am, 2005, C-print, h: 40 in x w: 40 1/16 inches, purchased with funds from the Paul L. and Phyllis C. Wattis Endowment for Works on paper, UMFA2008.34.4.
Paglen is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography, and visuality. He lives and works in New York and Berlin and holds a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and a PhD in geography from U.C. Berkeley. In addition to the UMFA, his work is in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Smithsonian American Art Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Whitney Museum of American Art; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; and National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, among others.
The presentation will begin at 7 pm in the UMFA's Katherine W. and Ezekiel R. Dumke Jr. Auditorium and will be followed by Q&A with the audience. UMFA galleries remain closed for remodeling until August 2017.
Paglen’s lecture is part of the UMFA’s ARTLandish: Land Art, Landscape, and the Environment series and the Utah Humanities Book Festival. This event is supported by XMission, Utah Humanities, and the University of Utah's Tanner Humanities Center, Communications Institute, Department of Communications, Department of English, and Department of Art and Art History. Special thanks to event partner Matt Potolsky, University of Utah professor of English.
The ARTLandish series is sponsored by the S. J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation. Community partners are the University of Utah J. Willard Marriot Library, the College of Fine Arts, and the Salt Lake City Public Library.
Whitney Tassie, curator of modern and contemporary art at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, oversees the Museum’s collection of twentieth and twenty-first century art, organizes the salt series of projects highlighting emerging international artists, and curates larger temporary exhibitions. She has brought work by Sol LeWitt, Nancy Holt, Paul McCarthy, Tacita Dean, Tony Feher, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Kate Gilmore, and William Lamson into the collection and has organized exhibitions with artists including Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Shigeyuki Kihara, Jillian Mayer, Conrad Bakker, Duane Linklater, Tacita Dean, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, and Tony Feher, among others. Recently, Tassie co-curated Brian Bress: Make Your Own Friends, a ten-year survey of Bress’s work, with MCA Denver curator Nora Abrams. Tassie holds a master's degree in modern art history, theory, and criticism from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor's degree in art history and archaeology from Cornell University.