ART & LIFE – Hasan Elahi (Tracking Transience 2.0)

Hasan Elahi at Ted

In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous? 

Al Gore

Who would imagine paranoia and fear of not having enough information could spark off an art. This is true for the case of Hasan Elahi, a New York raised artist cum an educator at Rutgers University, who was mistaken for a terrorist by the U.S government during the wake of 9/11.

He was firstly interrogated at the airport on his return trip from Europe and to prove his whereabouts he showed his PDA with his detailed class schedule etc to pacify them. However, he was called back again for more interviews and a lie detector test. The suspicion of the wake of 9/11, resulted in a gush of investigation on profiles of possible terrorist and without having sufficient information, the FBI resorted to such unreasonable options. This resorted in Hasan retaliating such ridiculous background checks that he decided to create Tracking Transience 2.0.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 10.57.52 PM

Hasan merged art and life when he first installed a GPS tracking device to his cellphone and he will update his location from his phone which will be recorded in his computer. He then created a website for viewers to document where is his whereabouts with evidence of photos of the places he was at ,what he was eating, what he was doing etc.

Screen Shot 2014-03-17 at 11.58.54 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-18 at 12.03.03 AMScreen Shot 2014-03-18 at 12.42.18 AM



His life is being watched over by everybody including the FBI. By allowing the public to access his information /data publicly, he redefined surveillance as an act of willingness on the targeted party(himself). It is his deliberate act of he can do a better surveillance compared to the FBI by giving his geographical location at the point of time and his timestamp on the photos he took at that moment. His art is his over excessive documentation of his whereabouts about his life and what he does to the point  audience may find it not as interesting when someone hides a side of his life? Over excessive narcissism comparable to instagram,twitter or other social media? I think its his art of irritating people with redundant things like the toilet he went etc to the point people will tend to forget or ignore his daily activity. That is his art. Including his life into his art, he created a reassurance to the public especially the FBI that his life is as banal as it can be and there is nothing to fear.

Data as an art form diminishes privacy in Hasan’s works and questions our consumption of database and how it may intrude people’s way of life but to Hasan he embraces such public exposure to his life. He is giving the audience what they want and not hiding his life and information about himself.  Putting all these information out there, he is telling the audience most of his life yet there is still bits of anonymity in his life,knowing very little about him.  An archival of data giving access of information to everyone,sharing everything devaluing private information. He is also able to access the logs of people viewing his information data from his website. So who is surveilling who now?

Here is a video of his experience: FBI-here I am

You can check out more about Hasan’s creative process and documentation from Prakash posts.(updating soon)

3 thoughts on “ART & LIFE – Hasan Elahi (Tracking Transience 2.0)

  1. Who is surveillling whom? That is a great question. In a sense, Hasan Elahi is making the point that we are all surveilling ourselves, as well as each other. And not just in covert ways, but through entirely public channels: social media, blogs, gps maps, etc. We have become a global society of surveillance and Elahi has tapped into this phenomenon by giving up his data willingly and profusely on a daily basis. And yes, you are right, it is excessive, it is a full time job! If you follow Hasan’s daily path, you’ll see a steady stream of imagery released on Facebook, his Website, which in turn is shaped into large installations. It is an unceasing flow of information: not just a project of Hasan Elahi, but one that many of us participate through our own media channels.

  2. “So who is surveilling who now?” This whole process is like one never-ending circle jerk with both parties involved. While this is more along the lines of invasion of privacy to access data, it also brings up to mind the idea of how surveillance has become a form of entertainment. For example, livestreamers on blogging platforms often livestream themselves to a wide audience. Even something like a static webcam shot of animals doing their thing gets huge tracking numbers in terms of the number of active followers. I guess it just goes to show how much we enjoy watching other people, and yet how the majority of us do not enjoy being watched by others without our own knowledge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *