Paglen, Trevor

Born 1974, USA
Lives in Berkeley, California


Trevor Paglen’s work is an exhibit unto itself, a collection of sew-on military badges depicting sinister symbols ranging from the mysterious to the overtly aggressive. The badges belong to the complex universe of secret visual codes, a subculture powered by the Pentagon’s classified “black budget” that delivers billions of dollars each year to stealth armies of high-tech warriors. Paglen’s work is a thorough investigation of the branding of democracy addressed to a different target group.

The installation for OURS also features texts by some of the designers of the badges as well as by Paglen himself that help decode the symbols and writing on the badges.


Wednesday, November 19
Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery
Charrette with Parsons students: 3:00 - 6:00 pm
Presentations by Shelley Fox, Trevor Paglen and Peter Merlin: 6:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Both events open to the public

Hailing from the world of fashion, national security, and art respectively, Shelley Fox, Peter Merlin, and Trevor Paglen discuss visual literacy in relation to dress codes, and look at collective identity constructed—and dissected—by open and closed systems of visual codes such as military insignia and designer logos.

In the charrette, students from various departments at Parsons and the public mine visual codes and brand reinforcement in the context of the military complex, taking as point of departure Paglen’s project on iconography associated with the “black world” of classified military culture. Participants work in teams to develop and craft onto T-shirts coded messages, examining the shifts in power when an outsider becomes an insider, such as when a consumer is initiated into an elite and “knowing” subculture.


Five Classified Aircraft 2007

5 fabric patches, framed; Edition 2/5

15 1/4” x 32 3/4” x 2 1/2”

Courtesy the artist and Bellwether, New York


Five Classified Squadrons 2007

5 fabric patches, framed; Edition 1/5

15 1/4” x 32 3/4” x 2 1/2”

Courtesy the artist and Bellwether, New York