Meeting Hassan Elahi

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting and learning more about photographer and digital artist Hassan Elahi. During our group discussion, Elahi talked about his work that revolves around his lifestyle of self-surveillance, and how his history of interactions with the FBI has caused him to become his own observer and to make his life completely visible to everyone on the internet. Elahi told us that he believes his work to now be obsolete because pretty much everyone with access to modern technology already documents a large portion of their day, whether they want to or not. While explaining this, Hassan had my class go to our phone’s Settings configurations and we all saw how our phones now keep track of where we go, how often we go, and even how long it takes us to get from point A to point B.

With technology now being so intrusive and accessible, Hassan believes that a majority of users are now cultural producers, and that they are creating art and content on a daily basis. Now that anyone can be a creator with such ease, the art world itself is changing, and the lines between cultural participant and producer are now blurred, and the definition of the art world itself is more fluid now than ever. Media is no longer generalized, and now there’s a much more diverse pool of participants and viewers, allowing content to branch into new sectors.

Another interesting point in conversation that came up was how Elahi displays his images in his work, and what the display means to him and the overall system of media and monitoring at large. I asked Hassan why he used the color bar image in his pieces Alert and Alert v2, and how the use of this image, meant to stabilize the resolution of color across a screen, changes or frames his pictures. Hassan said he uses this image because the color is a unit of measure and calibration, almost a system to his storm of information being presented. In my own work, I’m looking into the systems of media, and primarily how they are broken and dysfunctional. I’m using imagery and the actual internal components of technology to speak more towards these systems and display confusion. Hassan is using the system to create reason, and to make his pieces more legible.

The media system itself has good and bad aspects, like any other system. I really appreciate how Hassan uses the media template to organize his chaos, and I in contrast use chaos to distort the template itself. Seeing his work and hearing how he configures his thoughts around himself in relation to technology and media helped me to see a broader scope of the modern world and to gain a better understanding of my own work in some ways.