Internet mogul Josh Harris (above in 2014) is living in Las Vegas in a grubby apartment after becoming convinced he is the subject of FBI surveillance
An internet mogul who was once worth $95million is now living in a grubby apartment on $650 a week with a budgie, convinced he is being watched by the FBI.
Josh Harris pioneered webcam technology and made millions after predicting how the internet would grow in the 1990s.
Now 56, he lives alone in Las Vegas with an army knife next to his sleeping bag. He believes he is under FBI surveillance and has been for years for his role in a mysterious art installation at the World Trade Center before the 9/11 attacks.
The installation saw a group of performance artists apparently remove a window on the 91st floor of the North Tower in 2000 with suction pads and replace it with a balcony where they stood, one by one and naked, at 6am on a March morning in 2000.
It has eerie links to the atrocity which destroyed the towers, however.
Harris claims he was put on the FBI’s watch list for his involvement in a 2000 art installation at the World Trade Center which saw a group of artists replace a window on the 91st floor of the north tower with a balcony and stand on it at sunrise while the internet mogul filmed them from a helicopter. Above, the white box balcony is seen in a photograph purportedly showing it
The first is the name given to it by its creators, the Vienna-based artists group Gelatin who referred to the project as ‘The B-Thing’. The second is the scheduled date for an art show documenting the installation: September 11, 2001.
Gelatin was living in the World Trade Center on the 91st floor in the spring of 2000, occupying a shared studio space with other artists. According to the myth surrounding the installation, at 6am one March morning, they removed a window from the building with suction pads and replaced it with a box-like balcony.
Each of the four artists then stood on the balcony naked, dismantling the piece 19 minutes later and without anyone, apart for those invited to view and film it from a helicopter, finding out.
Harris was one of those invited on the helicopter, he says. An art show documenting the installation was scheduled for September 11 the following year before the deadly attacks.
Drawings detailing the artists’ plans were included in a book about the project titled The B Thing. It was written about before the 9/11 attacks. The artists however tried to separate themselves from the project beforehand, with their dealer claiming the stunt never happened
A photograph from The B Thing, a book on the subject, purportedly shows two of the four artists studying the window frame on the 91st floor
After them, Harris says authorities grew suspicious of the project and its artists, some of whom were Arab.
He assumed that police suspected the ‘The B-Thing’ could be code for Bin Laden and suggested in an interview with The Financial Times that the FBI believes the artists somehow knew about the attack before it happened.
Since disappearing from the public eye in 2000, Harris has traveled the world.
Harris (above in 2009) made his fortune by predicting internet trends
He believes he was being watched by the bureau throughout stints in Malta, Ethiopia and on an apple farm in upstate New York. On one occasion, he said he was stopped from shooting his pet dog when it ate one of his cats by an unexpected knock on the door from a handy man he had hired months earlier.
The man, he said, took the dog home with him. The bizarre encounter served as proof, alongside other such curious incidents, for Harris that he was being watched round-the-clock by agents.
‘Look, I play poker all day long, I do numbers. When that hand comes in, I wonder about the algorithm,’ he told the FT.
Harris resurfaced in 2009 for publicity commitments after appearing as the star of a documentary about his previous involvement in the art world. The film won acclaim at the Sundance festival and he retreated into anonymity again.
After moving to Las Vegas in 2014, he began playing professional poker but gave up to take up boxing full-time. He was captured in a film by director Ondi Timoner at the time explaining how he had come to live meagerly and how it was ‘part of his process’.
It is a far cry from his scandalous life in Manhattan at the turn of the century.
He lost much of his money when the dot.com bubble crashed in 2001. Harris had also spent heavily on art projects, leasing properties for live installations. Above, he is seen in a studio apartment in Las Vegas in 2014
In 2014, Harris was living in a suite at the Siegel Suites in Las Vegas and boxing full-time. He earlier took up professional poker, earning $650 a week
Harris made his fortune through Jupiter Communications, a company which predicted internet trends and how it would grow to unimaginable popularity.
He also founded Pseudo Programs which brought webcam broadcasting to the forefront of the industry with its positioning as an internet television channel.
Soon, Harris became a bonafide member of New York’s underground art scene.
In 1999, he made headlines with a quirky project which saw 150 volunteers live in a six-floor warehouse rented by Harris for a month where their every movement was filmed.
Together, they ate, slept, had sex and went to the bathroom on camera. The warehouse also featured a gun range, chapel and lengthy dining room for them to enjoy. NYPD stormed the building on New Year’s Day, 2000, amid growing concern it was the dwelling of a Millennium cult.
Afterwards, Harris produced a personal version of the project in his Soho apartment with his girlfriend.
Harrison claims he filmed Gelatin performing its World Trade Center installation in March 2000. He rented a hotel suite at the nearby Millennium Hilton, where they all celebrated afterwards, and that he captured it on camera in a rented helicopter, he said.
A New York Times article about the project written in August 2001, a month before 9/11, referenced a book about it the balcony and included photographs purporting to show it.
Harris sparked controversy in late 1999 with his project Quiet: We Live in Public. It saw 150 volunteers live in a six-floor bunker’ in Manhattan where their every movement was filmed by cameras and broadcast on the internet
Harris and his girlfriend later conducted their own version of the experiment, setting up cameras in their New York loft where they were watched by internet users
The article however also relays the conflicting accounts of those involved; Harris, who is quoted, maintains the stunt happened while art dealer Leo Koenig, who represented Gelatin at the time, insisted it didn’t.
Koenig said at the time that the aforementioned book, also titled The B Thing, was not proof of the balcony’s existence and was merely intended to question it.
Gelatin lists The B Thing as among its projects on its website. It does not explain in any of its descriptions, whether the balcony was ever really made, whether any of its members ever stood upon it or if it was filmed.
Harris returned to the spotlight in 2009 as the subject of a documentary by filmmaker Ondi Timoner (pictured above together)
The photographs from the book and an excerpt by author Tex Rubinowitz, are however included.
‘In days of conspiratorial work, somewhere on the 148th floor and using building site refuse they had tediously smuggled into the building under their pullovers, they constructed a functioning load-bearing balcony.
‘In a long complicated process they scratched putty from the tall heavy window, which couldn’t be opened. Then they extracted it using suction pads, shunted the balcony out, posed on it at 6 in the morning and had themselves photographed there from a helicopter for their nearest and dearest back home.
‘They kept very mum about it all, because if word had crept out about their coup they could have been fined very heavily for sabotaging a national treasure.
‘Even if it was built by the Japanese. Incidentally, as proof that they were there, there is now a piece of old chewing gum stuck to the outside of the building at a dizzy height,’ it reads.
The book is still available for purchase on Amazon from $660. Skeptical internet users have described it as the ‘smoking gun’ for 9/11.