Saturday, April 04, 2015

Trevor Paglen at Altman Siegel

This week I checked out the handful of works by conceptual artist Trevor Paglen at the Altman Seigel gallery at 49 Geary. Mr. Paglen investigates secrecy, communications technology & government surveillance, & though his art is part documentary, it is not self-explanatory. Code Names of the Surveillance State is a video scroll of the nerdy, boastful & funny names of NSA spying programs. Large photographs of people at the beach are paired with annotated maps revealing that these are also landing sites & choke points for the undersea cables carrying the world's Internet traffic.

Inside a curtained room, a projected video gives us a long, continuous shot of the GCHQ's UFO-like headquarters, filmed from an aerial camera that circles the building & occasional zooms in on cars & employees.

This sculpture of computer parts sealed in a plexiglass container looks like a skinned Power Mac G4 Cube, but it's a functioning wi-fi hotspot which communicates with Websites through the Tor network, a protocol designed to disguise a Web user's location. It is difficult to give concrete, visual form to subjects that are by nature hidden & recondite, but I found the exhibit a bit spooky nonetheless.

§ Trevor Paglen
March 5 – May 2, 2015
Altman Siegel
49 Geary Street, San Francisco

No comments: