Trevor Paglen

Artist-investigator blending art, journalism, geography and science

Paglen’s year started badly but ended in victory (admittedly a relative term when your work trains its sights on the omniscient surveillance society). The artist’s mission to space ended in disaster when the partially deployed $1.5m satellite-sculpture Orbital Reflector was lost during the Trumpenforced us government shutdown. That ten years of work was thus sacrificed has a certain poignancy, given that Paglen’s practice is a study of the relationship between aesthetics and power. In September, however, and working with researcher Kate Crawford, he garnered virallike coverage when he revealed that ImageNet, a dataset that trains artificial intelligence systems in visual recognition, was packed with racist bias and assumption. As a result, 600,000 images were removed. A flurry of exhibitions followed: a solo show in the Barbican’s Curve in London; Training Humans, a show by Crawford and Paglen at the Fondazione Prada in Milan; and Paglen’s Nam June Paik Prize presentation in South Korea.