It’s exceedingly rare for an artist to have his or her very first show in a museum, but such is the case for Laura Poitras, who will be exhibiting her immersive installation, Astro Noise, at the Whitney Museum. Poitras, of course, has been heretofore best known for her 2014 film, Citizenfour, which documented the story of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The filmmaker was actually present when the former CIA computer contractor spilled the beans to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill about the illegal spying on ordinary citizens by the U.S. and British governments.
The film won wide acclaim, resulting in an Academy Award, and Poitras’s celebrity may account for why she’s getting this show. In any case, Astro Noise is quite unlike Citizenfour in the sense that it’s not a film per se, but rather an interactive environment that will include documentary footage along with other elements. The themes, however, will be familiar to fans of Poitras’s work, as the show will build on her pervious interest in mass surveillance, the war on terror, the U.S. drone program and Guantánamo Bay. The title, by the way, is the name scientists have given to the residual thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang. It’s also the name Snowden gave his encrypted file containing the evidence of the NSA’s malfeasance. Astro Noise will be making a racket on the Whitney’s eighth floor from February 5 to May 1.