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Mary McCartney: Moment of Affection


Go inside the worlds of art, fashion, design, and lifestyle.

Intercepted February 24, 2009
Intercepted February 24, 2009

After Citizenfour, “Astro Noise”, Laura Poitras’s debut art show at the Whitney Museum

By Charlotte Boutboul

February 17, 2016

The Pulitzer Prize- and Academy Award-winning journalist, activist and documentary filmmaker of Citizenfour, Laura Poitras, is currently showing “Astro Noise” at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Up now through May 1, the exhibition remains faithful to Poitras’ work surrounding the post-9/11 world and its consequential issues of mass surveillance, pre-emptive war, indefinite detention, and torture.

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 the presentation at the Whitney.

Open Gallery

Intercepted February 24, 2009

Poitras insisted on a visceral approach to her intimidating subjects with highly immersive sets of installations meant to make the viewer engaged as protagonist, forcing at times, inadvertent answers to the questions laid upon him or her. The overall viewing experience goes beyond the traditional invitation to observe by provoking active instinctual reactions against eventually detached predispositions. Poitras hides a thermal security camera in part of an installation, the captured footage is visible in a later piece where the visitor then realizes he has been involved in the show despite himself. This tactic allows Poitras to subtly and progressively dismantle the gaps between the common dichotomies of “Us vs. Them.”

With a carefully assembled selection of primary reported documents and footage, Poitras offers a vigorous experience that has an almost playful feel, following dynamics of cause/effect, action/reaction, security/threat consistently revealing the flipside of the coin in an ongoing role interplay. In a screen installation, one side shows slowmotion reaction shots of New Yorkers during 9/11, while the reverse side reveals an interrogation taking place in Afghanistan approximately one year later.

Open Gallery


“I very much like the idea of creating a space that challenges the viewer and asks them to make decisions. My films are about these questions: What do people do when confronted with choices and risks?” Poitras said in a press statement.

The exhibit continues the museum’s relationship with Poitras, whose work was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. Jay Sanders, curator of the current show and co-organizer of the 2012 biennial said, “Laura Poitras compels us to rethink the potential for an artist to explore and convey the nature of power and to affect understanding and responsibility in the larger world.”

Astro Noise through May 1st at The Whitnew Museum.

CitizenfourContemporary artEdward Snowdengovernment surveillanceJay SandersLaura Poitraspost-9/11Pultzer PriceThe Whitney MuseumThe Whitney Museum of American ArtWhitney Biennial


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