415, Trevor Paglen
Octopus, 2020
Mixed Media
Dimensions variable

Octopus | Trevor Paglen

Trevor Paglen’s Octopus is an observation point from which to analyze the displacement that involves now our faculties of visions.

Octopus is an apparatus, literally a digital a set of equipment, the artist uses to show us how easily we gravitate towards images. As part of his ‘Bloom’ show at Pace Gallery, London, Paglen places throughout the exhibition space dozens of video cameras, all of them streaming on a web platform: the users who connect can therefore choose from which angle to see the exhibition or, better, the space around it and the people who physically enjoy it. Sprawling like an octopus, the system monitors and reports on the network what happens in the exhibition.

But there is a further step possible: online visitors can also give the apparatus explicit permission to access their webcam and project them inside the gallery space. The screens on which the online visitors are streamed are located high up on the exhibition walls and facing the ground: the effect is that some people are overlooking some others.

Octopus is not just a research, brilliant and accurate, on how technology is never neutral and on its attempt to extract private, fragile and secret pieces of information. It is a reflection on the power of the mediation of ‘presence’ and ‘vision’ in social space and a study on the dialectics of multiple sights.

In this specific time of physical distancing, the relationship between the viewer and the object of vision tends to be even vaguer.


Trevor Paglen, Octopus, 2020
Mixed Media, Dimensions variable
©Trevor Paglen
Courtesy of the Artist and PACE Gallery