Blank Spots on a Map: State Secrecy and the Limits of the Visible
A lecture by Trevor Paglen
Friday, May 23rd
Geographer and artist Trevor Paglen explores the network of hidden budgets, state secrets, covert military bases, and disappeared people that military and intelligence insiders call the “black world.” Over the course of his talk, Paglen will lead us from “non-existent” Air Force and CIA installations in the Nevada desert to secret prisons in Afghanistan and to a collection of even more obscure “black sites” startlingly close to home. Using hundreds of images he has produced and collected over the course of his work, Paglen shows how the black world’s internal contradictions give rise to a peculiar visual, aesthetic, and epistemological grammar with which to think about the contemporary moment.
They’ve also given rise to an incredible catalog of black-ops iron-on membership patches that have to be seen to be believed. The visual language of patches and symbols from black projects recalls other symbolic systems that have surprisingly long traditions. For millennia, artists and mystics have pondered the question of how to represent that, which by definition, cannot or must not be represented. Sometimes the answer is in repurposed religious symbology; sometimes it’s taking a cue from the Insane Clown Posse.