Reimagining Resistance: Performing Transparency and Anonymity in Surveillance Art

Gary Kafer

Abstract


In 2002, multimedia artist Hasan Elahi launched the project Tracking Transience, a website designed to make public his location and activity. Yet despite the complete disclosure of Elahi’s personal information in this format, Tracking Transience aims to enact a resistive posture to recent developments in digital surveillance. Rather than uphold claims to privacy, Elahi negotiates his security through the release of his personal information. Paradoxically, he voluntarily forgoes his privacy in order to feel more secure. His form of resistance then registers his project of self-surveillance as a performance of transparency. He turns the normative flow of power in digital surveillance into a new critical posture, wherein the artist becomes anonymous to surveillance systems and is able to maintain comfortable levels of security without typical recourse to privacy. And it is precisely this mode of anonymity that Elahi argues is able to produce a mode of resistance to surveillance, one in which the artist participates with digital surveillance in order to avoid it.  By tracing the methodologies that generate data on Elahi’s activity, this paper will speculate on how creative interventions can effect resistive strategies against surveillance systems by moving beyond the historical limits of privacy into the outer reaches of anonymity in our contemporary age of transparency.


Keywords


surveillance; art; dataveillance; transparency; resistance; anonymity

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