Artist Visits Boise To Explore Ideas Of Western Expansion And Surveillance

Sep 26, 2017

It’s been 15 years since Hasan Elahi was interrogated by the FBI as a suspected terrorist.

Elahi – who was born in Bangladesh but is an American – was stopped in the Detroit airport in 2002. For six months, he was questioned by the FBI and took numerous polygraph tests. But Elahi is not a terrorist. He’s an interdisciplinary artist and professor at the University of Maryland.

Elahi is going to talk about what it was like to be interrogated by the FBI at Story Story Night at the Old Penitentiary in Boise Tuesday.

“That’s going to be really exciting about sharing that story of my experience with the FBI and how I got caught up in this mess," says Elahi. "And, how I got out of it and [did not get] shipped off to Gitmo in an orange jumpsuit.”

Elahi says the experience of being monitored by federal agents led him to Garden City in a roundabout way. He’s been the artist in residence at Surel’s Place for the last month, exploring ideas of western expansion through the lens of mapping and surveillance. (Surveillance art has been a thread in his work since 2002.)

"We depicted them as a way of surveying and measuring territory we wanted and in many cases – we didn't necessarily paint that painting of that mountain because of its beauty – but because of the natural resources in it."
Elahi plans to return to the Treasure Valley over the next several months to finish his video and photography project.

Watch Elahi talk about his FBI encounter and the art it inspired below.

Find reporter Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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