Tracked & Traced

September 30, 2021 News

On September 10, 2021, MSU’s Science Gallery opened its fourth annual exhibition, “Tracked & Traced,” at the Michigan State University Museum. On display until December 11, the exhibition and its supporting public programs examine the complex relationship between surveillance and ethics.

Through the contributions of more than one dozen national and international artists, scientists, and researchers, the exhibition investigates surveillance both virtual and physical across four key themes. These include a focus on the ways that businesses collect personal information to generate profits, how surveillance disproportionately targets underprivileged populations, efforts to create more transparency and choice around the ways personal data is utilized, and protective actions individuals can take to combat unethical surveillance practices.

After reviewing over 175 open call submissions from around the world, the curators chose 18 exhibits to feature in the exhibition. Exhibitors from across the United States, The Netherlands, Germany, Mexico, and the United Kingdom are represented in the exhibition. Michigan State University assistant professor, Abhishek Narula of the Department of Art, Art History, and Design and Electronic Art and Intermedia & Experience Architecture is among those included.

The curators for this exhibition included:

  • Hasan Elahi, Professor and Chair of the Department of Art and George Mason University
  • Hannah Redler, Independent Curator and Director of Data as Culture at the Open Data Institute ssd
  • Emily Wegner, AI and facial recognition software researcher at University of Chicago 
  • Allyssa Harris, Lead Mediator at MSU Museum’s Science Gallery and graduate student at the University of Michigan’s School of Information

“The artworks in “Tracked & Traced” capture a huge range of the ways in which tracking and tracing technologies impact our lives – from the sinister to the unifying and beneficial,” remarks guest curator Hannah Redler Hawes. “They reveal how our place within these systems ranges from collateral damage of the constant surveillance which apparently accidentally captures us moving around our own cities, to being critical voices calling out the biased algorithms that have emerged through our imperfect design processes by imperfect—and too often monocultured—people. They encourage us to consider how these systems ‘train’ us and how we might form strategies to respond, fight back or humorously subvert. Projects move from wall-based to immersive and from software algorithms to Internet of Things hardware and systems. Many suggest quirky and amusing hacks which might allow us to use these systems for our own purposed in fun, ethical and life-enriching ways.”

Fifteen exhibits are on view in the Main Gallery at the MSU Museum. Additional exhibits are embedded at MSU’s new STEM Teaching and Learning Facility and throughout downtown East Lansing. This includes “Street Ghosts” by celebrated artist Paolo Cirio, a recipient of an honorable mention award at the 2021 Prix Ars Electronic media arts competition, in East Lansing. The work consists of images of people captured by Google Street View posted at the same physical locations they were taken.  

“Since the dawn of the 21st century, new technologies expedited the ways in which governments, corporations, and individuals surveilled people, places, and things throughout the world,” states MSU Museum director and curator Devon Akmon. “This timely exhibition seeks to explore the myriad ways surveillance impacts our society while encouraging visitors to explore how we can work to enable more ethical and equitable practices of seeing and being seen.

The exhibition kicks off with variety of virtual and in-person programs. This includes a live playthrough of OnlyBans, an interactive game that critically examines the policing of marginalized bodies and sexual labor, presented in partnership with Ars Electronica Festival 2021, which is known as one of the world’s largest international multi-media festivals that celebrates technology, science, and the arts. And, later in September, an outdoors screening of the critically acclaimed film “The Truman Show”in the W.J. Beal Botanical Gardens.

In sum, MSU’s Science Gallery will present one dozen programs in conjunction with the exhibit, including a workshop and lecture about the exclusionary nature of artificial intelligence (AI) and the algorithms that undergird our technologies led by the acclaimed transmedia artist and Stony Brook University Professor Stephanie Dinkins. For complete exhibition information and to view the full virtual program schedule that includes lectures, workshops, and performances, visit:

“Tracked & Traced” is made possible by Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU).

For coverage of the “Tracked & Traced” exhibition, visit the following news articles: