Watching the Watchers


Friday, October 07, 2011

The Bay Area artist Trevor Paglen calls himself an experimental geographer. For one project, Paglen has been tracking secret government spy satellites and taking photos of them.

Paglen’s art begins with rigorous research online, combing through government documents, sorting through data sets, talking to other hobbyists online. Although he’s interested in the satellites for political reasons (he has concerns about government secrecy), he says as an artist, it’s about understanding the world above him: “How do we come to terms with a landscape that has been constructed in such a way to be invisible to us?”

Reporter Lisa Katayama caught up with Paglen on the roof of his loft in West Oakland.

Paglen’s work is on view as part of the exhibition After the Gold Rush at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, through January 2, 2012.

(Originally aired: December 17, 2010) 


Slideshow: Trevor Paglen’s Photographs

Trevor Paglen
Trevor Paglen

In his project, "The Other Night Sky," artist and self–described "experimental geographer" Trevor Paglen tracks and photographs U.S. spy satellites in earth orbit. In this photo, Paglen claims to have found the radar imaging reconnaissance satellite Lacrosse–Onyx II, passing through the Draco constellation.

Trevor Paglen
Trevor Paglen

Paglen finds the covert satellites by using the U.S. Strategic Command’s published catalog of everything it tracks in space, plus observations made by an international network of amateur "satellite observers." Through a process of elimination, he plots an invisible landscape comprised of those satellites observed by the amateurs, but not tracked by the government.

Trevor Paglen
Trevor Paglen

Paglen’s photo identifies the optical reconnaissance satellite Keyhole–Improved Crystal, as its orbit carries it close to the Scorpio constellation.


Lisa Katayama

Comments [5]


I am certainly not a Republican (doubt I'd listen to NPR or Studio 360 if I was) nor am I repressed. In fact, you don't know anything about me. Sarcasm does not make a strong statement, or add to intelligent conversation. There's no need to lash out at people who disagree with you. That's the type of thing that makes the world ugly.

Oct. 28 2011 09:24 AM
Sarah from Florida

Oh my......tsk, tsk. Watch your P's and Q's, Remain repressed and manageable.

We just can't have this unacceptable use of language. Vote Republican.

Oct. 13 2011 12:25 AM
M Bain

I was just logging in to comment on this story and see that Jon Berry beat me to it. I agree with him completely that the word "friggin" does not belong in a story created by someone hoping to be considered a professional journalist.
I was enjoying the story and listening intently, but as soon as she said "friggin" my immediate gut reaction was that this was probably an intern, or someone's daughter or niece who got offered the story,
It has nothing to do with being a prude, it has everything to do with expecting serious journalists to handle their stories with professionalism.

Oct. 10 2011 06:39 PM

Please, Jon, don't be such a prude. How about banning "fudge" as in "Oh, fudge, that hurt!" What the frack!

Oct. 09 2011 03:18 PM
Jon Berry from Northern NJ

As always, I enjoyed today's program. But I must comment on one word: "friggin". Just the other day, I was explaining to my 13-year-old that 'friggin' was a substitute for the "F" word, but was still rather crude, rude and not appropriate in most circumstances (maybe privately with people you know very well, for that occasional added emphasis). Then today I hear contributor Lisa Katayama state that it was "friggin cold" on the roof. This not the sort of language I expect from a bunch of teenagers, not what I and my family should be hearing on NPR.

Oct. 08 2011 05:35 PM

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