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Friday, June 20, 2014


Trevor Paglen's installation at London's Gloucester Road tube features idyllic landscape with monitoring station in background
 An English Landscape (American Surveillance Base near Harrogate, Yorkshire artwork
'If we look in the right places at the right times, we can begin to glimpse America’s vast intelligence infrastructure,' says Trevor Paglen of his latest work. Photo: PR


A shimmering image of a Yorkshire landscape, lush green fields spread out under a pinky grey sky, will be installed along the entire 62-metre length of the platform wall at Gloucester Road tube station in London this week. Those with time between their trains may start to wonder about the strange white buildings in the distance and gradually realise that the scene is not the rural idyll it first appears.

The creator of the image, US artist and author Trevor Paglen, describes it as in the tradition of landscape painting by artists such as Constable, Turner and Gainsborough – but there's more to it than homage to the Old Masters.

Titled An English Landscape (American Surveillance Base near Harrogate, Yorkshire), the giant photograph shows Menwith Hill, an RAF base, which has become a huge monitoring station supplying intelligence to the UK and the US.

Paglen, whose book Blank Spots on the Map: the Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World, looked at the world of state intelligence-gathering, was struck by how little visual evidence there was of the international web of security surveillance uncovered by Edward Snowden and other whistleblowers.


He has created a series of seductively beautiful images that attempt to document it including night-time images of the US National Security Agency headquarters and other security bases taken from a hired helicopter. The Central Intelligence Agency, not surprisingly, refused his repeated requests to photograph its headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Theirs need not be an invisible world, Paglen writes: "Digital surveillance programs require concrete data centres; intelligence agencies are based in real buildings; surveillance systems ultimately consist of technologies, people, and the vast network of material resources that supports them. If we look in the right places at the right times, we can begin to glimpse America's vast intelligence infrastructure."

The London installation was an unusual commission for the Art on the Underground programme, which has in the past commissioned brilliantly colourful works to cheer up the wall of the disused platform.

Louise Coysh, the programme manager, said: "Art on the Underground is delighted to bring an artist of Trevor Paglen's standing and importance to our flagship site. I've no doubt this work will stimulate thought and debate during the rush-hour commute."



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