If you had told me ten years ago that I would be making pictures of flowers, I would have said you were out of your mind. Flowers are clichés unlike anything else, however, they are also allegories. They represent life but also death and fragility. They are symbols of mourning but also of joy. – Trevor Paglen
Trevor Paglen’s recent flower photographs continue the artist’s long-held interest in how technology affects our lives. Created in spring of 2020 against the backdrop of the global pandemic, these images can be seen as meditations on the fragility of life and the passage of time, and as a continuation of the historical floral still life and vanitas traditions meant to convey similar themes. Paglen’s work shifts these ideas into the present context through their process of production. To make the work, computer vision algorithms analyzed Paglen’s original flower photos to identify the individual parts of the plant life (ie: trunk, petal, stem, etc). The resulting colors and shapes do not indicate what Paglen, or even his camera, saw, but rather what the AI (in learning from other images of flowers) has determined the various parts of the image to be. Paglen said about these photos and other work in his recent show: “Computer vision and artificial intelligence have become ubiquitous. The works in this exhibition seek to provide a small glimpse into the workings of platforms that track faces, nature and human behavior, and into the underlying data that structures how machines ‘perceive’ humans and landscapes.”
In 2017 Paglen was named a MacArthur Fellow. His photographs are in collections throughout the world, including the Dallas Museum of Art. Paglen has had numerous solo exhibitions, including at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego; Frankfurter Kunstverein; Protocinema Istanbul; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Vienna Secession.