The Chatter Podcast: The Art of the Security State with Trevor Paglen

By David Priess
Thursday, May 12, 2022, 9:12 AM

This week on Chatter, Shane Harris speaks to artist Trevor Paglen, who explores themes of surveillance, security, and secrecy. 

Shane first got to know Trevor’s work through his delightful and spooky book I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed By Me: Emblems from the Pentagon’s Black World. It’s a collection of patches and insignia used by secretive military units and classified programs. They are interesting works of art in their own right. But they also use images and numbers to communicate a hidden meaning. Trevor has spent much of his time decoding those messages and turning them into visual art. 

Trevor has turned secret code names into visual artifacts, tracked and photographed spy satellites as they crossed the night sky, and taken rare photographs of intelligence agency complexes and military installations. He told Shane about his career, as well as his days as a punk musician and his work in journalism. 

Chatter is a production of Lawfare and Goat Rodeo. This episode was produced and edited by Cara Shillenn of Goat Rodeo with engineering assistance from Ian Enright.

Podcast theme by David Priess, featuring music created using Groovepad.

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Works discussed in this episode:

Trevor Paglen’s website:

I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed By Me: 

From the Archives of Peter Merlin, Aviation Archaeologist

ImageNet Roulette: 

Trevor’s photos of intelligence agencies