Collection: Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen
b. 1974, Camp Springs; lives in New York¶
Seventeen Letters from the Deep State, 2011
17 archival pigment prints
11 x 8-1/2 inches
Edition 1 of 3
Collection Pérez Art Museum Miami, museum purchase with funds provided by Irene and Irv Barr¶
Image courtesy of Metro Pictures

Trevor Paglen is an artist and a geographer whose practice is grounded in facts and scientific methods. Throughout his work he has addressed broad cultural issues relating to the control and dissemination of information. Seventeen Letters from the Deep State is composed of U.S. State Department documents released during a court case between two transport companies. These companies were awarded government contracts to move cargo, which may have included prisoners captured as part of the Bush administration s war on terror. While these documents are banal, largely outlining flight permissions, close inspection of the letters reveals incongruous facts: the signatures on each letter, attributed to the same name, are very different, and the locations mentioned, Karachi, Pakistan, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba for instance, are places we recognize as implicated in the War on Terror. These details raise suspicions about the nature of the seemingly routine documents. ¶¶The movement of this cargo was often to black sites and part of a larger process of extraordinary rendition, the practice of apprehending people without legal permission and moving them to locations where they are no longer subject to U.S. jurisdiction. Once at these sites, suspects can be subjected to harsh interrogation methods or tortured, acts that would be illegal in the U.S. The use of extraordinary rendition was a widely criticized aspect of U.S. military and intelligence strategy, undertaken particularly during the period following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. While the Bush administration denied the existence of a program of extraordinary rendition, these letters are part of a body of evidence that would suggest otherwise. ¶¶

What do you think?