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Trevor Paglen

The Shape of Clouds

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #865 Hough Circle Transform, 2019. dye sublimation print, 84" × 60" (213.4 cm × 152.4 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #865 Hough Circle Transform, 2019. dye sublimation print, 84" × 60" (213.4 cm × 152.4 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #211 Region Adjacency Graph, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 80" (121.9 cm × 203.2 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #211 Region Adjacency Graph, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 80" (121.9 cm × 203.2 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #603 Watershed, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 60" (121.9 cm × 152.4 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #603 Watershed, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 60" (121.9 cm × 152.4 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #135 Hough Lines, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 65" (121.9 cm × 165.1 cm).

Paglen, Trevor CLOUD #135 Hough Lines, 2019. dye sublimation print, 48" × 65" (121.9 cm × 165.1 cm).

About Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen (b. 1974, Camp Springs, MD) is known for investigating the invisible through the visible, with a wide-reaching approach that spans image making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. The clandestine and the hidden are revealed in series such as The Black Sites, The Other Night Sky, and Limit Telelphotography in which the limits of vision are explored through the histories of landscape photography, abstraction, Romanticism, and technology. Paglen’s investigation into the epistemology of representation can be seen in his Symbology and Code Names series which utilize text, video, object, and image to explore questions surrounding military culture and language. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures.

Paglen has had numerous one-person exhibitions, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (2019); Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2015); Eli & Edythe Broad Art Museum, Michigan State University, East Lansing (2015); Protocinema Istanbul (2013); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, Netherlands (2013); and Vienna Secession (2010). He has participated in group exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2008, 2010, 2018); Museo Nacional Centro de Artre Reina Sofia, Madrid (2014); The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2012); Tate Modern, London (2010), and numerous other institutions.

Press Release

  • The Shape of Clouds

    Geneva—Pace Gallery is delighted to present The Shape of Clouds, the gallery’s first exhibition by American artist Trevor Paglen. Held at Quai des Bergues, 15-17, from 4 September to 19 October 2019, this exhibition will explore Paglen’s central themes of computer intelligence, facial recognition technologies, and alternative futures. The Shape of Clouds will coincide with Training Humans, an exhibition of works by Paglen and Kate Crawford presented at the Prada Foundation, Milan, from 12 September 2019 to 24 February 2020, as well as a solo exhibition, From “Apple” to “Anomaly”, presented at the Barbican’s The Curve, London, from 26 September to 16 February 2020.

    Paglen's innovative work examines the systems and technologies that shape people’s lives. Cloud computing platforms that collect, interpret, and operationalize data about human’s identities, movements, habits and predilections, fuel the artist’s broad practice which ranges from investigative journalism to scientific research. Employing a variety of disciplines throughout his oeuvre, including sculpture, photography, and video work, The Shape of Clouds will feature twelve photographs and lithographs that dissect corporations and governments’ use of machine learning techniques to monitor, extract value from, and modulate people’s actions, behaviours and thoughts.

    Computer vision and artificial intelligence have become ubiquitous. We are now living in a world of planetary-scale “Smart Cities” that track license plates, cell phone signals, faces, and pedestrian movements; self-driving cars autonomously navigate urban environments; robotic factories use computer vision for quality assurance and logistics. The works in this exhibition seek to provide a small glimpse into the workings of these platforms, and into the underlying data that structures how machines “perceive” images, language, landscapes, and people.’ Trevor Paglen, July 2019.

    Highlights of the exhibition will include Clouds, a series of large-scale photographs that depict cloud formations overlaid with strokes and lines that display how various computer vision algorithms interpret, or “see” these amorphous shapes. Artificial intelligence algorithms are designed and trained to look for faces, unique keypoints, lines, circles, and areas of interest as they attempt to deconstruct the underlying photograph into a more simplified series of sections or shapes. The series draws parallels to the history of landscape photography, particularly of Alfred Steiglitz’s Equivalentsoften seen as among the first conceptual photographs concerning nature and abstraction—while layering the images with the evidence of ubiquitous algorithms that are used in technologies of war, surveillance, facial recognition, 3-D modeling, among other computer driven contexts.