The award—given yearly by the EFF, a nonprofit organization devoted to defending civil rights in the digital world—is presented to people who fight for online freedom and to reform laws about technological surveillance. This year’s other recipients were former United Nations Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue and United States Representative Zoe Lofgren.
Known for his radical, sometimes uneasy blend of politics and art, and represented by Metro Pictures, Paglen uses photography to voyeuristically spy on the government and its technology.
This past February, on a commission from Creative Time, the New York-based artist released Watching the Watchers, a series of high-contrast nighttime photographs of U.S. intelligence agencies. The series was done in conjunction with The Intercept (a publication founded by documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill), and is available as public domain on such online databases as Flickr and Wikimedia Commons.
Paglen’s work was recently shown at the Kunsthalle Düsseldorf as part of its exhibition “Smart New World,” which focused on art and surveillance in a post-Edward Snowden world. In October, Paglen’s work will appear in “Really Useful Knowledge,” an exhibition at the Reina Sofía that will examine how museums can become a space for experimentation with socially- and politically-fused art.