Saturday, January 10, 2009
Black Ops and Material Culture
Trevor Paglen, an artist, writer, and experimental geographer, wrote I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to be Destroyed by Me: Emblems from the Pentagon's Black World.
Here's the book description:
They’re on the shoulder of all military personnel: patches that symbolize what a soldier’s unit does. But what happens if it’s top secret?
Shown here for the first time, these sixty patches reveal a secret world of military imagery and jargon, where classified projects are known by peculiar names (“Goat Suckers,” “None of Your Fucking Business,” “Tastes Like Chicken”) and illustrated with occult symbols and ridiculous cartoons. Although the actual projects represented here (such as the notorious Area 51) are classified, these patches—which are worn by military units working on classified missions—are precisely photographed, strangely hinting at a world about which little is known.
By submitting hundreds of Freedom of Information requests, the author has also assembled an extensive and readable guide to the patches included here, making this volume one of the best available surveys of the military’s black world—a $27 billion industry that has quietly grown by almost 50 percent since 9/11.
Here's a three-part series where Paglen describes the patches (including the one above):
Black World - Black Projects
Black World - Symbology
Black World - The Culture
The third video discusses how the patches, representing confidential projects that cannot be discussed, serve as records of enduring value that can only be interpreted correctly by a select group. They reveal everything and nothing. I would love to accession these babies!
Read the New York Times article, Inside the Black Budget, which has more photos of the patches with explanations of their meaning.