Trevor Paglen’s Nonfunctional Satellite
Opening September 12th in Istanbul, Turkey, Protocinema features an installation by artist/astronomer/author Trevor Paglen (previously featured on A&SJ HERE). Perhaps best known for his photographic investigation of the covert operations conducted by government agencies such as the CIA and their covert satellites and offensive military drone program; this new work sees Paglen taking aerospace technologies typically associated with militarism and challenges their ability to exist in a manner at odds with their conventional function, with an emphasis on aesthetics and design.
Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 4; Build 3) 2013, is a sculpture designed to be placed into low-earth orbit and reflect sunlight down to the earth’s surface. Once launched, it would appear as a bright point of light slowly moving across the sky over the course of several months, before burning up in the atmosphere. This spacecraft-cum-art object combines maximum reflectivity with minimum weight, taking the shape of a giant mirror-like sphere.
Paglen ponders what the aerospace engineering industry would look like if its methods were decoupled from the corporate and military interests that currently fund all space endeavors. His nonfunctional satellite recasts the age old question of “art for art’s sake” within a different field and with a different spin, asking whether we can imagine a place for “aerospace engineering for aerospace engineering’s sake.” In doing so, the spacecraft functions as both a critique of the militarization and commercialization of the night sky, and a way to imagine how things could be different.
Founded in 2011, Protocinema is a nonprofit art organization that makes transnational, nomadic exhibitions in Istanbul and New York. Protocinema creates opportunities for emerging and established artists from all regions to realize new work and exhibit existing work in a variety of contexts that are open to the public, and accessible to a wide range of individuals.