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Hasan Elahi: surveillance, data and new media

Monday, September 30, 2013 - 9:43am

The Lamar Dodd School of Art welcomes interdisciplinary American artist Hasan Elahi, whose experiences on a government watch list have introduced a new element to his art, and our society:

"When Hasan Elahi’s name was added (by mistake) to the US government’s watch list, he fought the assault on his privacy by turning his life inside-out for all the world to see."  In 2011 he gave a well received TED talk which can be seen here, and he is a very vibrant and exciting lecturer. 

Elahi is an associate professor at the University of Maryland who has exhibited widely - at the Venice Biennale, the Centre Pompidou, and the Hermitage – and was subjected to six months of questioning about his extensive international travels. Figuring once in the system, never out, he decided to turn the tables and cooperate – with a vengeance. Starting with constant phone calls and emails to the FBI to notify them of his whereabouts, what started as a practicality grew into an open-ended art project. He began posting photos of his minute-by-minute life, up to around a hundred a day, on TrackingTransience.net – hotel rooms, train stations, airports, meals, beds, receipts, even toilets – generating tens of thousands of images in the last several years. Just for good measure, he also wears a GPS device that tracks his movements on his site’s live Google map. And as if to prove his point that “the best way to protect privacy is to give it away,” Elahi – while still being watched by the authorities, according to server records – hasn’t been bothered since.

He says: "By putting everything about me out there, I am simultaneously telling everything and nothing about my life." – from Ted Talks Global.

The lecture is at 5:30 pm on Tuesday Oct. 1 at 5:30 pm in Room S151 of the School of Art. A workshop, a "Code Dance", where Elahi will use his unique teaching techniques to teach the basic concepts of programming through ballroom dancing will take place Thursday October 3 at 2 pm in the main entrance hall outside Gallery 101 in the School of Art. 

Image: Eye, from an installation by Hasan Elahi, courtesy of the artist.

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