Visibility Machines:

Harun Farocki & Trevor Paglen

October 24, 2013 - February 22, 2014

Visiting Curator: Niels Van Tomme


“Visibility Machines” explores the unique roles Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen play as meticulous observers of the global military industrial complex. Investigating forms of military surveillance, espionage, war-making, and weaponry, Farocki and Paglen each examine the deceptive and clandestine ways in which military projects have deeply transformed, and politicized, our relationship to images and the realities they seem to represent. The exhibition initiates critical questions about the crucial part images play in revealing essential but largely concealed information, and places the oeuvres of Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen within the broader cultural and historical developments of the media they are creatively working with, namely photography, film, and new media.

Film Program: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen select

Curated by Sonja Simonyi, this film program features two screenings of works selected by Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen, paired with the artists’ own works on film and video.

Paglen selects

Ten Skies (James Benning, 2004), color, 109 minutes, 16mm

Drone Vision (Trevor Paglen, 2010), black and white, 5 minutes, video

February 11, 2014, 6pm

AV Center, Milton S Eisenhower Library

JHU Homewood Campus

3400 Charles St, Baltimore MD 21218

Trevor Paglen’s selection, James Benning’s Ten Skies (2004), is a formally rigorous work, which shows the skies above and around Val Verde, a small town in California, and the shifts in color and cloud formations affected by the physical transformation of the landscape below, by both natural processes and such marks of human intrusion into the natural setting as wild-fires and pollution. This poetic film provides evocative links with Paglen’s work, in which the sky becomes an abstracted sphere in which one can reveal and expose traces of military activity. Importantly, despite the seemingly unobtrusive subject matter of Ten Skies, Benning has repeatedly highlighted its political significance as an “anti-war artwork … about the antithesis of war, the kind of beauty we’re destroying.”

Farocki selects

Overlord (Stuart Cooper, 1975) black and white, 95 minutes, 35mm

Inextinguishable Fire (Harun Farocki, 1969), black and white, 21 minutes, 16mm

February 5 2014, 6pm, Shriver Hall,

Johns Hopkins University, 3400 Charles St, Baltimore MD

The 1976 film Overlord (Stuart Cooper, 1975), chosen by Farocki, places warfare in a fictional framework, and evokes questions on the diverging ways in which archival footage can be incorporated into new filmic material. While Farocki does not approach the theme of war in a narrativized context, issues relating to the visualization of war, and the formal strategies employed in order to construct such images can be usefully evoked through Farocki’s filmmaking as well. Meticulously researched, and using carefully selected footage from the film archives of the Imperial War Museum in Great Britain, the film follows a young soldier’s experiences of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, France by Allied Forces during the Second World War. The striking aesthetic quality of the film was achieved by matching the archival footage used in the film, with live-action scenes shot with period lenses and stock footage from the 1930s.


A conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen

October 21, 2013, 3:30 pm

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

East Building Concourse, Auditorium

This conversation with Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen, moderated by curator Niels Van Tomme, will address the ways in which artistic observations of global military operations pose thought-provoking questions about image-making. What is ultimately the responsibility of artists in capturing, or revealing such processes?

The event is hosted by the National Gallery as part of the Art’s Lectures & Book Signings series.

Panel discussion: Drones

November 14, 2013, 6 pm

National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC

Keck Center, 500 Fifth St., N.W., Room 100

The panel will discuss society’s current obsession with unmanned aerial vehicles, better known as drones, and the ways in which they transform our landscape and imagination. How will they alter our lives and what will they ultimately come to represent for the popular consciousness?

Opening remarks by Niels Van Tomme, Visiting Curator at the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture, UMBC, Baltimore.


Mary (Missy) Cummings: Associate Professor, Aeronautics and Astronautics and Engineering Systems, MIT; Director, Humans and Automation Laboratory, MIT

Marko Peljhan: artist; professor, Department of Art and the Media, UCSB; Co-Director, UC Institute for Research in the Arts, UCSB

Peter W. Singer: director, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Brookings Institution; senior fellow, Foreign Policy program, Brookings Institution

Moderated by JD Talasek, Director of Cultural Programs of the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC.

The event is co-organized with and hosted by the National Academy of Sciences as part of the DC Art Science Evening Rendezvous (DASER), a monthly discussion forum on art and science projects in the national capital region.

“Visibility Machines: Harun Farocki and Trevor Paglen” is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation, the Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, the Goethe-Institut Washington, DC, the Baltimore County Commission on Art and Sciences, and the Maryland State Arts Council.

Images (left to right): Trevor Paglen, Open Hangar; Cactus Flats, NV; Distance ~ 18 miles; 10:04 a.m., 2007, C-Print, 30 x 36 in., Courtesy of Metro Pictures, Altman Siegel Gallery, and Galerie Thomas Zander; Harun Farocki, War at a Distance, 2003, video, 54 min., Copyright Harun Farocki

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