Thursday, October 22, 2009

Project V: Following Piece 2.0 - Oct 26 - 30

Follow The Leader Up Butternut Creek
Image courtesy KaCey97007

A few months ago, shortly after Michael Jackson had died, I was clicking through YouTube to listen to some of his old classics. I stumbled upon this great cover by KT Tunstall of the Jackson 5 favorite, "I Want You Back":

It got me thinking about art, fine art, conceptual art. In the music scene, cover songs are super common, both among emerging musicians who want to connect with the crowd and established musicians. To me, a cover song is not a tribute to another artist, or a derivative work, or imitation, or a remix. A cover song is just darn fun, and it's good music.

Artist Vito Acconci. Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Following Piece 1.0
Forty years ago, in October 1969, artist Vito Acconci performed Following Piece. A study in the public spaces we occupy and assumptions around privacy, Acconci followed random people in Manhattan during the month and reported on their activities until they entered a private area such as an apartment or car. Here's what Media Art Net had to say about it:
Following Piece is one of Acconci's early works. The underlying idea was to select a person from the passers-by who were by chance walking by and to follow the person until he or she disappeared into a private place where Acconci could not enter. The act of following could last a few minutes, if the person then got into a car, or four or five hours, if the person went to a cinema or restaurant. Acconci carried out this performance everyday for a month. And he typed up an account of each pursuit, sending it each time to a different member of the art community.
A pioneer in conceptual art, Acconci's Following Piece marked a shift in his own artistic interests, as he began to look at how we occupy public space. His results, which I found on Design Boom, struck me as not unlike a series of Twitter or FourSquare updates, decades before these technologies made the public broadcast of somewhat-private actions in public space normal.

It got me thinking. I always loved his piece, and I wondered how he might perform it in this age of social media and mobile phones. So why not do a cover?

Grand Street: Texting
Image courtesy moriza.

Following Piece 2.0
And so, with that in mind, I thought it might be fun to do a cover of Following Piece, but to look at it specifically in the contemporary context of Twitter, a world where public/private boundaries are shifting and eroding, as once-private activities are broadcast into online public space. In the world of Twitter, the idea of following has taken on a new meaning: once an uncomfortable thought, it's now regularly seen as a good thing to have one's private actions followed by many strangers.

In short, from October 26 to October 30, we're asking anyone interested to join a public performance of Following Piece in the social media sphere. Following Piece 2.0. We would use Twitter, and we'd apply the hashtag #fp20 to make it super clear that our tweets are part of the performance.

What would Following Piece 2.0 look like? Here are some thoughts:
  • Tweeting about a person you're following on Twitter. Let's say you're following @mrskutcher and she says she's going to a party. In Acconci's original piece, he never identified the subject per se, so you might tweet: "Lady with glasses and short hair is going to a release party #fp20"
  • Tweeting about a person you're following in real life. I live in New York, and I accidentally follow people all the time if we happen to be going in the same direction. What if you followed someone for a little bit and live tweeted what they're doing?
  • Tweeting for a person you're following in real life. When sitting on the bus, I often like to imagine what other people are thinking or what they'd be tweeting in that moment.
  • Integrating geolocation social media services like Foursquare and Brightkite.
  • Use your imagination!
If you're interested, drop your name and Twitter handle below, or just start tweeting on October 26. Just be sure to use the hashtag #fp20 so we know what's what!

You're never too old for a good game of follow the leader

Very Important Note
Before we begin, we want to make it super duper ultra clear that we are not encouraging stalking, cyberstalking, harassment or anything else of that nature. If you follow someone online, you may wish to ask them beforehand if they would be okay with your performance. And if you're following someone offline, keep in mind that they may not be comfortable with what you are doing. In all cases, be sure to respect local laws and, importantly, respect people's right to privacy.