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Stanford University
The Cantor Arts Center presents Trevor Paglen’s Sight Machine, a new multimedia performance in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet and Obscura Digital

The Cantor Arts Center presents Trevor Paglen’s Sight Machine, a new multimedia performance in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet and Obscura Digital

Time Study

Trevor Paglen (U.S.A., b. 1974), Time Study (Predator; Indian Springs, NV), 2010.  Eight gold-toned albumen prints.  Robert E. and Mary B. P. Gross Fund, 2016.7

Pier 70, San Francisco

Paglen will be Cantor Arts Center’s first artist-in-residence

The Cantor and FOG Design+Art Fair will co-present a panel discussion of experts in artificial intelligence, civil liberties, and contemporary art

Stanford, California—The Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University is pleased to announce that genre-defying artist Trevor Paglen has been chosen as its first artist-in- residence. During this new residency program, Paglen will spend time at Stanford from January through May of 2017 and have access to resources and experts across the university’s diverse departments. His residency is designed to encourage cross- disciplinary exploration in contemporary art and will culminate with an exhibition at the Cantor.

To launch the residency, the Cantor has commissioned Paglen’s large-scale performance piece: Sight Machine, an exploration of the intersection of artificial intelligence (AI) technology and visual experience featuring live music performed by San Francisco’s Grammy-winning Kronos Quartet. The performance will be held at San Francisco’s Historic Pier 70 on January 14, 2017.

Paglen’s performance—to be held at Orton Development’s construction site at Historic Pier 70 in San Francisco’s waterfront Dogpatch neighborhood—will explore the way machines “see” and interpret the experience of watching a musical performance. The audience will be invited into a space where the Kronos Quartet will perform works ranging from Baroque composer J. S. Bach to contemporary minimalist composers Terry Riley and Steve Reich and American blues to African folk music. As the audiencewatches the show, the live video feed of the performance will be processed in real time through surveillance AI algorithms, and the resultant “machine vision” data images will be projected on a screen above the performers. Paglen is partnering with Obscura Digital, a creative studio and leader in visual projection technology, to co-develop the real-time optimization and presentation technology that will realize his vision of creating an immersive Sight Machine space.

“The Cantor Artist Residency reflects the interdisciplinary, investigative model that exists in classrooms, laboratories and elsewhere at Stanford, allowing us to create exhibitions and programs at the museum that provoke new discussions about our past and our current moment,” said Alison Gass, Chief Curator and Associate Director at the Cantor. “We recognize that great contemporary art can often train a lens upon the world’s most pressing issues, just as Trevor Paglen has done with arresting precision in his work about government surveillance, spy technology, geography and the dynamics of global political power. We are honored to welcome him as the museum’s first artist-in- residence, and we’re excited to see the performance and exhibition that result from his time on campus.”

Paglen will engage with experts at Stanford throughout the winter and spring to deepen his ongoing research into artificial intelligence. He will also produce a new body of work, also entitled Sight Machine. To further his exploration of machine vision technology and the ethical considerations of such potential new ways of seeing, he will partner with the Artificial Intelligence Vision Labs and have access to the research on new AI algorithms. Paglen will also work with the Center for the Internet and Society at Stanford Law School.

“During my time at the Cantor and at Stanford, I am seeking answers to questions about the intersection of technology and vision as the visual landscape becomes increasingly machine-readable,” said Paglen. “First, the technical aspects—how do automated forms of machine seeing ‘see’ the world? How do computer algorithms designed to see and interpret images engage with photographs, landscapes, people and the visual world in general? And how can humans learn how to see like the seeing machines that are becoming ever more ubiquitous? The secondary question concerns the ethical implications of ubiquitous machine vision. What are the implications for public space and privacy? For law enforcement and national security? In the context of great economic, social, gender and racial inequality, how will the uneven effects of ubiquitous machine vision serve to reinforce or challenge existing societal divisions? I am eager to draw on the knowledge of Stanford’s experts to inform the performance, the exhibition and my future work.”

The Cantor Arts Center and FOG Design+Art fair will co-present a panel discussion about Paglen’s Sight Machine project at Historic Pier 70 on January 14. The panel will examine the powerful possibilities that arise when artists address major technological and ethical issues facing our global community. It will also discuss the way artistic practice can deepen and promote interdisciplinary consideration of serious issues. The panel will include Trevor Paglen, Alison Gass, and Jennifer Granick (Director of Civil Liberties at Stanford’s Center for Internet and Society.) The panel and performance coincide with FOG Design+Art, the premier art fair on the West Coast, which will convene leading galleries and collectors in San Francisco from January 12 to 15, 2017.

About Trevor Paglen
Trevor Paglen’s work spans image-making, sculpture, investigative journalism, writing, engineering and numerous other disciplines. Among his chief concerns are learning how to see the historical moment we live in and developing the means to imagine alternative futures. Paglen has shown his work in one-person exhibitions at the Secession, Vienna; Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum; Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands; Frankfurter Kunstverein; and Protocinema, Istanbul. He has participated in group exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Tate Modern, and numerous other venues. He has also launched an artwork into distant orbit around Earth in collaboration with Creative Time and MIT, contributed research and cinematography to the Academy Award-winning film Citizenfour, and created a radioactive public sculpture for the exclusion zone in Fukushima, Japan.


He is the author of five books and numerous articles on subjects including experimental geography, state secrecy, military symbology, photography and visuality. In 2014, he received the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Award for his work as a “groundbreaking investigative artist.” Paglen holds a B.A. from U.C. Berkeley, an M.F.A. from the Art Institute of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Geography from U.C. Berkeley. He is represented by Altman Siegel Gallery in San Francisco. Learn more


About Kronos Quartet
For more than 40 years, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet—David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola) and Sunny Yang (cello)—has combined a spirit of fearless exploration with a commitment to continually reimagining the string quartet experience. In the process, Kronos has become one of the world’s most celebrated and influential ensembles, performing thousands of concerts, releasing more than 60 recordings, collaborating with an eclectic mix of composers and performers and commissioning over 900 works and arrangements for string quartet. The Grammy- winning quartet has also received the Polar Music and Avery Fisher Prizes. The nonprofit Kronos Performing Arts Association manages all aspects of Kronos’ work, including the commissioning of new works, concert tours and home-season performances, education programs and an annual Kronos Festival in San Francisco. In 2015, Kronos launched an education initiative, Fifty for the Future: The Kronos Learning Repertoire, which will commission and distribute online for free 50 new works (five by women and five by men, each year for five years) that are designed to train students and emerging professionals. Learn more


About Obscura Digital
Obscura Digital is a creative studio headquartered in San Francisco. Since 2000, Obscura has created one-of-a-kind immersive multimedia experiences worldwide. With a team of 68 full-time artists and technologists, its work transforms physical spaces and connects deeply to inspire its audiences. Obscura’s clients are forward-thinking corporations, cultural dignitaries and global changemakers—all pioneers in their own right. The studio was the first to illuminate some of the world’s most iconic buildings, including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Empire State Building, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, the Sydney Opera House and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Learn more

About Orton Development, Inc.
Since 1984, Orton Development, Inc. (ODI) has specialized in large-scale, highly challenging rehabilitation and redevelopment projects including office, industrial, R&D, and live-work space. ODI focuses on value added design to address vacancy, urban blight, environmental damage, structural challenges, and functional obsolescence, with a specialty in repositioning large and historic properties. Learn more

About FOG Design+Art
FOG Design+Art is the premier art and design fair on the West Coast. The fourth edition of the fair will take place January 12–15, 2017 at San Francisco’s historic Fort Mason, with a preview gala benefiting the newly transformed San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) on January 11. The fair assembles 45 leading international galleries, including some of the most prominent dealers of 20th-century and contemporary art and design, and attracts collectors from around the region and the world. FOG also presents a weekend of vibrant programming celebrating today’s leading contributors to the worlds of design and visual arts. Learn more

Program Support
Sight Machine is organized by the Cantor Arts Center. We gratefully acknowledge support from the Palmer Gross Ducommon Fund and from our partners: Meyer Sound, Obscura Digital, Orton Development and Plant Construction. Support of the residency underwritten by the Stanford Arts Institute.