Laura Poitras: Astro Noise is the first solo museum exhibition by artist, filmmaker, and journalist Laura Poitras. This immersive installation of new work builds on topics important to Poitras, including mass surveillance, the war on terror, the U.S. drone program, Guantánamo Bay Prison, occupation, and torture. Some of these issues have been investigated in her films, including Citizenfour, which won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Documentary, and in her reporting, which was awarded a 2014 Pulitzer Prize.
For the exhibition, Poitras is creating an interrelated series of installations in the Whitney’s eighth-floor Hurst Family Galleries. The exhibition expands on her project to document post–9/11 America, engaging visitors in formats outside her non-fiction filmmaking. Instead she will create immersive environments that incorporate documentary footage, architectural interventions, primary documents, and narrative structures to invite visitors to interact with the material in strikingly intimate and direct ways.
The title, Astro Noise, refers to the faint background disturbance of thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang and is the name Edward Snowden gave to an encrypted file containing evidence of mass surveillance by the National Security Agency that he shared with Poitras in 2013. The Snowden archive partially inspired Poitras’s presentation at the Whitney.
Laura Poitras: Astro Noise is organized by Jay Sanders, Curator and Curator of Performance.
Major support is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation.
Significant support is provided by the Teiger Foundation, the Keith Haring Foundation Exhibition Fund, and The Reva and David Logan Foundation.
About the artist
Laura Poitras (b. 1964, Boston) is a filmmaker, journalist, and artist. In Astro Noise, her first solo museum exhibition, she expands her cinematic practice into a series of installations and immersive media environments.
More than a decade ago, in response to the United States invasion of Iraq, Poitras embarked on her powerful "9/11 Trilogy," three feature length documentary films. The first of these, My Country, My Country (2006), follows the family of an Iraqi doctor during the United States occupation. The Oath (2010) weaves together the stories of two men involved with Al Qaeda and the larger issues surrounding the United States prison at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Finally, the Oscar-winning Citizenfour (2014) details Poitras’s meetings with whistleblower Edward Snowden as he revealed the massive scale of the National Security Agency’s global surveillance programs. Collectively in these works, Poitras investigates the strategies and tactics developed in the aftermath of 9/11 that have come to be known as the “war on terror”: ground wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere; torture; mass and warrantless surveillance; and the use of drones in what officials call "targeted killing."
She has received many honors for her work, including a MacArthur Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Peabody Award. She has attended the Sundance Institute Documentary Labs as both a Fellow and Creative Advisor. Her reporting on NSA mass surveillance based on Snowden’s disclosures won the George Polk Award for national security journalism, and shared in the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
She has taught filmmaking at Yale and Duke Universities, and is on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Along with AJ Schnack and Charlotte Cook, she is co-creator of Field of Vision.
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), still from O’Say Can You See, 2001/2016. Two-channel digital video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist.
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), still from O’Say Can You See 2001/2016. Two-channel digital video, color, sound. Courtesy the artist
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), still from Bed Down Location, 2016. Mixed-media installation with digital color video, 3D sound design, infrared camera, and closed circuit video. Courtesy the artist
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), ANARCHIST: Israeli Drone Feed (Intercepted February 24, 2009), 2016. Pigmented inkjet print mounted on aluminum, 45 × 64 3/4 in. (114.3 × 164.5 cm). Courtesy the artist
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), ANARCHIST: Power Spectrum Display of Doppler Tracks from a Satellite (Intercepted May 27, 2009), 2016. Pigmented inkjet print mounted on aluminum, 45 × 64 3/4 in. (114.3 × 164.5 cm). Courtesy the artist
Laura Poitras (b. 1964), Laura Poitras filming the NSA Utah Data Repository construction in 2011. Photograph by Conor Provenzano