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Downtown Macon art center shows exhibition on privacy, surveillance

One of the pieces showcases the Confederate monument on Cotton Avenue.

MACON, Ga. — What if you were watched everywhere you went? One artist has voluntarily documented his every move for the world to see.

Hasan Elahi is an American interdisciplinary artist whose work examines issues of surveillance, citizenship, migration, transport, and the challenges of borders and frontiers.

Elahi has been documenting nearly every moment of his life over the last 20 years through thousands of images.

At the McEachern Art Center, you can see four pieces of Elahi’s work in an exhibition called 'Inversion.' It features three art installations and a video project that The MAC will be streaming.

One of the pieces showcases the Confederate monument on Cotton Avenue.

Keeping with the theme of surveillance, Elahi has taken an image of the monument from Google Street view and featured it as if it were taken with one of the oldest forms of photography, the camera obscura.

This has rotated the image upside down and turned black-and-white. The piece is called 'Retina,' after the way the human eye also sees images upside down before our brains correct them.

“It’s also interesting seeing how vision and how photography and how the history of photography is related and almost directly confronting the history of this building and of this location and of this monument,” Elahi said.

He was investigated by the FBI in 2002 after an anonymous tip erroneously reported him as a terrorist. He was re-entering the U.S. after an exhibition in Senegal.

During the investigation, he says he completed to nine consecutive polygraph tests and months of interviews with FBI agents.

“And after that it was like, ‘Guys, well I travel a lot. All we need is the next guy to not get the next memo and here we go all over again,'” Elahi said.

That's when he began tracking his every move publicly. He says what's interesting about his work now is that people often mention his documentation looks very similar to many people’s Instagram feeds.

“So, the level of self-surveillance has become so normalized. There was a time when people would ask me ‘Why in the world do you want to tell everybody everything? Why are you telling people where you’re eating?’ Of course, these days, it's like as soon as you sit down many of us pull out our cameras and take photos,” Elahi said.

In one of his other pieces, visitors can see images from Elahi’s nearly two-decade long documentation. He says if guests look closely enough, they can see images from previous visits to Macon.

“I’m really fascinated by a lot of the works I’m seeing now and a lot of people taking selfies in front of my work, which then becomes a whole work on themselves. I love this idea of people inserting themselves into the work and then they’ll take a photo and that becomes another thing in and of itself in the public,” Elahi said.

He also says he’s looking forward to seeing what shows up on his Instagram feed from Macon.

You can view Elahi’s work at the McEachern Art Center from 4-8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday. The exhibit is free.

Elahi will be in Macon to discuss the exhibit at The MAC on December 10. It's located at 332 2nd St. downtown.


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