Tracking Himself: The ‘Orwell Project’

Washington Post
by Jessica Dawson

05/12/07

Soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the U.S. government mistook Hasan Elahi for a terrorist. On a return trip from Europe, the Bangladesh-born, New York-raised artist was flagged at the airport and interrogated. To prove his whereabouts, Elahi showed them his Palm PDA, a device that yielded enough information — from calendar notes of appointments and classes he teaches at Rutgers University — to placate his interrogators. … The artist hatched a plan. If Big Brother wanted proof of his coordinates, why not surveil himself? Recording his own moves could, theoretically, seal his alibi. And, when conceived of as art project, the action might satirize federal intelligence gathering. From the day in 2002 when Elahi implanted a GPS-enabled device in his cellphone, art and life merged. Several times a day, the artist input his location into the phone and his computer recorded the data (he hopes to incorporate a live GPS tracker soon). He then created a Web site that allowed viewers to see where he is at any given time — you can visit at //www.trackingtransience.net ...

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