Trevor Paglen to Lead Exclusive Art-Themed Scuba Dive During Art Basel in Miami Beach

You'll visit the sites of Internet cables tapped by the NSA.

Trevor Paglen, title TK.
Photo courtesy Metro Pictures, New York.

Art Basel Miami Beach is known for many things—lavish and exclusive parties, celebrity attendees, billions of dollars’ worth of art changing hands, even Miley Cyrus concerts. It’s not really thought of as a place for consciousness-raising on government surveillance.

But at the giant fair this December, artist Trevor Paglen will lead a small group on a scuba-diving expedition to the site of underwater Internet cables that have been tapped by the National Security Administration (NSA). His gallery, New York’s Metro Pictures, is organizing the trip.

Divers wishing to join Paglen—the number will be capped at 10—will have to get open-water scuba certification from a reputable school. Participation in the Miami dive will run you $500, which will cover the boat, guides, air tanks, wet suits and other equipment.

Paglen’s previous work has gained him an award from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that works to defend civil liberties online. The artist became known for photographing secret government sites and airplanes used in so-called “extraordinary rendition” activities—the practice of secretly flying terrorism suspects to undisclosed locations.


Trevor Paglen.
Photo courtesy Creative Time.

The artist’s current show, at Metro Pictures through October 24, includes photographs and videos of sites of NSA facilities, allowing visitors to watch the watchers. Some of these works come from the artist’s part in the filming of Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ 2014 documentary about NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden.

There’s also Autonomy Cube, a sculpture that provides a wireless connection within the gallery that is shielded from government surveillance via Tor software. Paglen’s hope is to expand the project to American museums, so that they can become havens from data mining and traffic analysis by commercial wireless providers.

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