In the early stages of a new project, I try to immerse myself in the material culture surrounding my subject. When I started examining the undersea landscapes of transoceanic data cables, mass surveillance and the geopolitics of the ocean floor, I spent some time learning about the history of clandestine undersea vessels. These vessels have been a big part of such geopolitics. The USA’s National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO) is the classified agency which conducts undersea mapping and other covert undersea activities. For nearly 50 years, the NURO has deployed a series of specialized submersibles including the USS Parche, the USS Halibut, and the NR-1, in order to tap undersea cables and undertake other ‘special’ actions.
The most recent in this line of NURO vessels is the USS Jimmy Carter, christened on 5 June 2004. Three models of the USS Jimmy Carter are usually scattered throughout my studio. The two larger ones were built from model kits. The smallest was bought fully assembled from eBay.
Trevor Paglen is an artist and photographer based in Berlin. Paglen was recently awarded the 2016 Deutsche Börse photography prize for his exhibition The Octopus at Frankfurter Kunstverein (2015). A participant in Manifesta 2016 and the 9th Berlin Biennale, Paglen’s upcoming exhibitions include the Gwangju Biennale and Home Land Security, For-Site, San Francisco.
First published in Issue 25