Tracking Transience – The Orwell Project is a self-surveillance project. As a result of an erroneous tip called into law enforcement authorities, Hasan Elahi was subjected to an intensive FBI Investigation post 9-11. After undergoing months of regular interrogations and finally nine consecutive lie-detector tests, he was cleared of any suspicions. However, this experience led Elahi to conceive a self-tracking device that constantly transmits and maps his exact location alongside his financial data, communication records and transportation logs. Other aspects of Tracking Transience include a database of thousands of images of airports Elahi travels through and sometimes sleeps in, food he consumes in transit, and public toilets he uses while travelling. Tracking Transience – The Orwell Project builds on a series of installations, performances, and websites that use Elahi’s self-surveillance to critique contemporary investigative techniques. A second innovation in this work is its embrace of surveillance for its subject’s own protection; Elahi has protected himself from unwanted scrutiny by making his entire life and whereabouts publicly accessible.
Hasan M. Elahi is an interdisciplinary media artist with an emphasis on technology and media and their social implications. His research interests include issues of surveillance, simulated time, Transport systems, and borders and frontiers. He is currently Assistant Professor at the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Prior to joining the faculty at Rutgers, he was an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. He has also taught at West Virginia University; at the Wanganui School of Design in New Zealand; and also in Houston, Texas. He has had numerous exhibitions nationally and internationally in venues such as PS122, Exit Art, and Pace Digital Gallery in New York, the Kulturbahnhof in Kassel, Germany, the BBC Big Screen in Manchester, UK and The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia. His work has been supported with signicant grants and numerous sponsorships from The Ford Foundation/Philip Morris, Creative Capital Foundation, DuPont Industries, the West Virginia Cultural Center and the Asociación Artetik Berrikuntzara in Donostia-San Sebastián in the Basque Country/Spain among others.