BLE , 2021

This work was commissioned by Goldsmith’s CCA in London on the occasion of their group exhibition Testament (21 January – 3 April 2022)

‘As the UK navigates seismic shifts triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Black Lives Matter movement, environmental crises and Brexit, the role of monuments has been brought into sharp focus, becoming the centre of public debate. Testament is a large-scale group exhibition across the entirety of the CCA building, staged in response to this tumultuous period.

BLE is a proposal for a sculpture in public space that is a monument to contact-tracing – a method of communicable disease control used in many public health systems. This monument can be read as both a celebration of a means of minimising the spread of viruses, but also a warning of how recent developments in tracing technologies might still be a real threat to our privacy and personal data. 

Contact-tracing is a method of prevention that has been used since the 18th century, most notably in controlling the spread of small pox and typhoid. It was originally performed by local health workers though house-to-house visits,  isolating contagious patients from their communities. In the 20th and 21st centuries we have seen the emergence of more technological approaches from electronic reporting by computer, through to the most recent developments during Covid-19 of mobile phone applications and the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). 

But low participation rates, privacy concerns, and technology glitches have plagued the rollout of such tracing apps around the world. In June 2020, the Norwegian Data Protection Authority said that the Institute of Public Health’s app presented a disproportionate risk to privacy given low download rates estimated at on 15 percent of individuals over 16. The app was suspended and all data collected by the technology was deleted. Norway’s decision came not long after Lithuania stopped the use of a similar app for suspected violations of EU privacy laws. We must also consider surveillance technology companies such as Israel’s NSO turning their hand to Covid-19 contact tracing, releasing ‘Fleming’ – a product that clearly builds upon their already existing methods of tracing people such as their infamous ‘Pegasus’ spyware. 

BLE is made by Navine G. Khan-Dossos in collaboration with Dimitris Papousakis. 

In Testament, BLE was represented as a colour giclee print 30cm x 40cm

All images thanks to Goldsmith’s CCA, London