Muslim Artist Conducts Surveillance on Himself

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Hasan Elahi is an American citizen with a Muslim name. He's a digital artist and a professor at the University of Maryland. In 2002, when he was returning from an art exhibition in Senegal, U.S. immigration agents detained him as a terrorist suspect. Elahi was turned over to the FBI, and battery of interrogations followed. Elahi struggled to prove his innocence, though nine polygraph tests proved he did not speak Arabic and had no knowledge of how to manufacture explosives. Ultimately, his incredibly detailed accounting of his whereabouts, which he compulsively tracked with his PDA, helped Elahi walk away with his freedom. To this day, his name has yet to be fully cleared.

In the eight years since the FBI has stopped tracking him, Elahi has taken on the job of surveillance of himself. Elahi's project, called Tracking Transience, is a massive log of data on his doings and whereabouts. It's a constantly updated digital alibi that tracks places he goes, planes he takes, addresses of his last known location. There are photos of empty hotel beds, and of airplane meals, all of it available on the internet.

Guests:

Hasan Elahi

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