Monday, November 16, 2009

Following Piece 2.0 : Are you following me? by Stella Untalan

Everything is about following.
Are you following me?

I was intrigued by the { following 2.0 } project at many levels. Not the least of which was my twitter handle : stellth. Stellth is one side of me. Stellth is a silent observer, an investigator, a documenter. Stellth is unseen.

Being an observer is essential to stimulating the imagination. Observation and imagination were key to my process in this piece.

I decided that I would use small identifying details in my tweets to hold the thread together for my followers. In this way, if their attention lasped or a tweet or two got past them they could fill in the blanks and recover. It made entering the piece at any point viable. A follower didn’t need the whole story to become engaged and then follow.

Living in a walkable city made picking subjects and logistics easy. I selected someone by a physical attribute: hair color, jacket, bag. I was never really close enough to hear any of the conversations of the individuals that I followed. This is where I mixed the factual and imaginary.

© 2009 Stella Untalan

The first person I decided to follow, a blonde woman I often see on my way to the gallery, avoided me the first day. I had to decide if I would skip her and follow someone else as my first subject. I decided against it. I imagined that anyone who knew I was doing the piece would wonder what happened. That would be all for the good. Intrigue from the start.

Twitter / stellth: The woman with the blond h ...

My first tweet:

The woman with the blond hair put on her raincoat, took her umbrella and headed up 18th street. #fp20

and then :

How had she avoided me all day yesterday? #fp20

Early on I decided that I would wait if the blonde woman disappeared from view. I would wait as long as it took until she reappeared. On the very first follow I waited from 10:40 AM until 1:56 PM. While I waited, I thought out loud sending a few tweets to keep connected to the story. Letting my followers know I was still making the piece.

tweets :
I'm waiting. For her. #fp20

I have no idea how long it will be. I imagine it must be a meeting, an appointment. 45 minutes? an hour? #fb20

Methodology : observe and let the story unfold, improvise.

By the time the blonde woman emerged I had a couple replies from followers on twitter and Facebook. They asked me, who is the blonde woman? why are you following her? One person asked me if I was stalking... I gave them the link to the project post. They were intrigued and excited to continue following the piece.

I had lunch with a friend who asked me outright, who is the woman? Do I know her? I replied : Follow.

I had decided not to map my actions or use photos in my tweets. I wanted the narrative and my followers to use their observations and imagination to extend the story. They sent me tweets asking, what store, what cafe?

tweet :
The bag is TINY. Thinking about what could be inside. Can't be a pastry can it? #fp20

Dragonfly Cakes - Petits Fours - Petit Four - Home

When I tweeted about the TINY bag a whole flurry of questions came at me. Guesses. I would reply. More guesses. Links to reference materials about different kinds of candy and French pastry. It was an amazing interaction. Surprisingly, the most investigative responses happened on Facebook (I import my feed). Maybe it was because people knew me and felt comfortable.

tweets :
I'm thinking of a name for the woman I am following. Should I name her so that this stream sounds less impersonal? Not her real name. #fp20

The response was a resounding NO. I was pleased. I didn’t really want to give the blonde woman a false name, and my followers agreed.

The last interchanges with my followers were around the sister that visits the blonde woman. I assume it is her sister; they look so much alike. My followers suggest that whatever was in the TINY bag was to share with the sister. A special treat they enjoyed together when they were young and that they still share today.

tweets :
She's coming back out. A car has pulled up. A rental car. I can see the little enterprise e logo. She's greeting the driver. #fp20

The blonde woman is opening a gate for the car to enter. The woman in the car is parking. They are hugging. #fp20

My unexpected joy in making this piece came from the interaction with my followers who were open to writing the story with me. Imagining and embellishing as the story unfolded.

The idea of a cover of the Acconci piece on twitter and compressing the timeline fits our current culture perfectly. All of the performances can be viewed on Twitter using the search term #fp20.

Are you following me?

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