Trevor Paglen’s work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering and numerous other disciplines. He analyses current pivotal moments in an attempt to imagine or predict an alternative future and is known for artworks that reveal covert military interventions, formal explorations of surveillance and machine vision. His most recent work, created during a lockdown enforced in New York City due to the Covid-19 pandemic, opens up new ways of thinking about his practice. One could suggest that it is a result of paranoid introspection, a time when confinement and isolation created a wanting desire for nature.
Bloom (#a5808a) is an alluring photograph that depicts a tree in full bloom, or rather a hyperbolic, other-worldly bloom with over-ripe forms that seem almost impossible to fathom. The artist produced this as part of a body of work reflecting on the Vanitas tradition of using metaphor to reflect on themes of mortality, a subject he returned to regularly in 2020. The resulting image is in fact a coded simulation of how an Artificially Intelligent machine begins to bear witness to the outside. Encoding and shifting the programme that informed the machine’s vision, the result is a poignant object that reflects the tension between the corporeal aspects of the environment and the realm of the technological.