Image: Code Names of the Surveillance State by Trevor Paglen (projection by The Illuminator)

Download exhibition floorplan.

Parallel Construction was a 2-day exhibition and public event organized by Laura Poitras and Sean Vegezzi to mark the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and the start of the United States’ “war on terror.” 

The exhibition took place September 10 and 11 at the historic St. George’s Church in the neighborhood formerly known as Little Syria, just south of the World Trade Center. Parallel Construction included works by artists, filmmakers, and journalists at the forefront of investigating the impacts of the “war on terror,” and in documenting untold histories in New York City.

“Parallel Construction” refers to a law enforcement tactic used to build a parallel, legally conducted investigation in order to conceal the illegal methods used to begin an investigation and gather evidence. This tactic has been used in the post-9/11 era to conceal illegal activities such as torture and warrantless surveillance.

St. George’s Church | Little Syria

103 Washington Street, New York City

Public Events

Friday, September 10: 

Local historians Todd Fine and Joe Svehlak led a walking tour through historic sites in the neighborhood formerly known as Little Syria. The neighborhood was home to a large middle eastern community of artists, writers, and political activists. The residential community was largely displaced by the construction of the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and the Twin Towers.

At sunset, the activist-collective The Illuminator projected Trevor Paglen’s Code Names of the Surveillance State on the 50-story Holiday Inn adjacent to St. George’s Church. The scrolling text of 21,000 secret code names was visible alongside the Tribute in Light 9/11 memorial. 

Saturday, September 11: 

In the evening of September 11, Laura Poitras and Spencer Ackerman held a public talk in Liberty Park, which overlooks the national 9/11 Memorial. Ackerman spoke about his journalism and personal experience covering the post-9/11 “forever wars” and his book, Reign of Terror

Afterward, filmmaker Jehane Noujaim introduced a screening of her landmark documentary Control Room, set inside Al Jazeera’s newsroom and US Central Command in the weeks before and after the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. 

At sunset, The Illuminator again projected Paglen’s Code Names of the Surveillance State onto the Holiday Inn adjacent to St. George’s Church.


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