96. Reimagining Surveillance and Data Collection
96. Reimagining Surveillance and Data Collection
New Museum, IdeasCity

They Watch the Moon is a photographic series by Trevor Paglen, an artist whose work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering, and numerous other disciplines. Paglen often works with surveillance and data systems, using these collections to navigate the complicated geography between the public and the state.

"They Watch the Moon" depicts a classified “listening station”deep in the forests of West Virginia. The station is located at the center of the “National Radio Quiet Zone,” a region of approximately 34,000 square kilometres in West Virginia and parts of Maryland. Within the Quiet Zone, radio transmissions are severely restricted: omnidirectional and high-powered transmissions (such as wireless internet devices and FM radio stations) are not permitted.

The listening station, which forms part of the global ECHELON system, was designed in part to take advantage of a phenomenon called “moonbounce.” Moonbounce involves capturing communications and telemetry signals from around the world as they escape into space, hit the moon, and are reflected back towards Earth.

Artist: Trevor Paglen
Year: 2010
Location: West Virginia
Image credit: Trevor Paglen

Presented by Trevor Paglen at IdeasCity New York