I am still overwhelmed by all he amazing input I got at the Chaos Communication Congress. It’s really hard to sum up all the interesting talks, things, projects and people I met and saw, so I’ll be writing about them bit by bit. One fascinating talk by Trevor Paglen in particular I’d like to share because it is just so unbelievably absurd but true.

Here’s the talk’s description:

Although people around the world are becoming increasingly aware of the United States’ global geography of surveillance, covert action, and other secret programs, much of this landscape is invisible in our everyday lives.

The drone war, for example, seems to happen “somewhere else” while surveillance programs take place among the (largely) invisible infrastructures and digital protocols of the internet and other communications networks. Moreover, the state agencies responsible for secret programs strive to make them as invisible as possible.

In this talk, artist Trevor Paglen discusses his work attempting to “see” the various aspects of the secret state. In examples ranging from tracking spy satellites to foraging through the bureaucratic refuse of CIA front companies, Paglen will discuss methods used to identify and exploit structural contradictions in classified programs which render them visible, and comment on the aesthetics and politics of attempting to “see” secrecy.

He has made it a point to make visible the secret infrastructure that institutions like the CIA have and followed the paper trail. Very American military: of course, the squadrons and military personnel that work at these secret bases need patches for their uniforms! I was just baffled. You couldn’t make this up.