Trevor Paglen It Began as a Military Experiment 2017

  • MoMA, Floor 2, 216

Data is the new oil: the world’s most valuable resource. For this work, Paglen selected ten photographs from a database of thousands of images taken of military employees in the mid-1990s that the United States Department of Defense used to develop Face Recognition Technology. Faint letters mark the corners of each person’s eyes, nose, and lips. By comparing the features of different faces, an algorithm could be taught how to “see” and identify individuals. The more faces, the smarter the algorithm. Paglen shows that before social media, the military had begun to convert humans into ever-growing data sets that could power systems of surveillance and control.

Gallery label from 2022
Medium
Ten inkjet prints
Dimensions
Each 13 7/16 × 10 1/4" (34.1 × 26 cm)
Credit
Photography Purchase Fund
Object number
25.2018.a-j
Copyright
© 2022 Trevor Paglen, courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York
Department
Photography

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].