Tag Archives: GPS


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.

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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  http://www.trackingtransience.net 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.

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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)