by Nkechi Eze, Yeon Hong & Matt Smith
After a show that we had played in Europe, I was backstage just hanging out with the band. There was this one woman whom none of us had really seen before, but just figured she was a fan who had gotten backstage. She was sort of near the back of the backstage area, so no one thought anything of her.
The next show, the same woman was backstage, but this time, she was lingering in the middle of the room. She didn’t come up to anyone or do anything out of the ordinary, and had the credentials to be backstage, so we just went on relaxing after a successful show.
It was the next time that was weird, as after the next show we all were backstage, and noticed this woman again. I asked all of my band-members if they knew her and they didn’t, and we were all wondering who she was. Then she started to approach us, all sitting near the far end of the room. I didn’t know her, so I motioned to security to come over, and it’s a good thing I did, because the moment she got within 10 feet of me, she started screaming out my name and how much she loved me – it was a hysterical, crazed scream. Security escorted her out, stolen credentials and all.
I never thought that he was a stalker. Maybe just a neighbor who was a little invasive perhaps? He always wanted to know what I was doing, came by a little too often – I rarely let him in since I was busy taking care of and raising a 2 year old, so I was usually out at the park or the Met, but I never thought twice about him.
It wasn’t until my husband got back from tour that his aggression really showed. He kept asking when I was going back to acting, since he was a fan of my theatre work. He said some strange things like how he felt “lucky” that I moved in next door. But whenever he saw me with my husband of 12 years, he gave us the evil eye. He was always nice to me when he saw me coming up the stairs alone, but my husband said that he was always unpleasant when he passed the neighbor.
One night after we had just put our son to bed, my husband and I were watching some TV when we heard a banging on our front door. Not like a usual banging, but like someone was trying to break the door down with a pipe. We called the police since we had no idea who this was, but then the neighbor started screaming. He was screaming how he wanted to kill us all, how he was my true love, how my husband was my illegitimate lover and how my son was the product of this disgusting love. My husband, being the protector that he is, opened the door and knocked our neighbor’s lights out. The police came immediately after and arrested him, but to this day, my son has always been very security conscious.
My main part in this project was the performance art in the act of following and narrating two stories of following/stalking as I followed. It was very interesting that, while reading stories from people who were very aware of their followers, those that I followed, except for one woman, was completely unaware of what was going on though I made no attempts to mask my presence or lower my voice as I was reading these testimonials. Unlike Vito Acconci in his following piece, I wanted my presence to be known, and to have a performance art based in interpersonal relation. By using Wayland Square as my stage, I was able to problematize the assumption of safety that is illustrated in that quaint area of Providence. The process did get easier as I went on though, as I became more comfortable with this act – maybe the same thing can be said for real-life followers/stalkers/voyeurs in general? The act of storytelling was very interesting, as the similarity of their stories to what I was doing created a very interesting and striking contrast to the reactions I received. I am very glad that we were able to get a testimonial from the last woman I followed. Maybe it was the fact that she was a nanny that made her hyperaware of her surroundings. I thought that her engagement with her cell phone conversation would take away attention paid to her surroundings; however, maybe that was an incorrect conjecture to make. Her assumption that it was “common knowledge” to be aware of one’s surroundings added to this project as it made an even more compelling contrast to what I had previously experienced in previous trials. Look behind you, you never know who could be there, visible or not.
Inspired by Vito Acconci's Following Piece, this project furthers the theme of privacy and consent that we presented in the original Facebook project. The project consists of two parts of action. First is a combination of stalking and story telling, in which one of us follow a random passer-by right behind him/her and tell the target a testimony (or two) of stalking victims. This part of the performance presents interesting parallel between form and the content of storytelling: a narrator tells a story about stalking -- violation of privacy and consent -- by invading a person's privacy bubble without consent.
Second part of the performance is recording of the performance, which is also stalking performance in and of itself. The camera is not only a recording tool in this project. It offers another layer of gaze, that of a stalker who surveils the stalking performance. The camera follows the stalker/storyteller and the participant/listener stealthily from a distance.
I mainly played a role of cameraperson during the performance. One interesting thing I noticed was that many subjects discovered me filming them and made eye contacts with the camera, whereas none of them initiated any human interaction or eye contact with the stalker who was following right behind them. As the subjects looked around and made eye contact, I felt being "surveilled" by them, and many times I had to drop the camera and hide it because I was scared that I might get caught. Despite my initial role as the "surveillant," I felt that I was not free at all from this dynamic web of gaze created in the performance.
A popular Nigerian saying is "common sense is not common". Its implications are that we often take the most important things for granted. Virtual stalking is often taken for granted. So is actual stalking underplayed as "separate", something only others/celebrities go through. I have seen so many Brown Crime Reports about people talking on their cell phones or on their iPods when they get robbed on campus. Stalking is about violation, boundaries. But we are usually wrapped in a dual bubble- college hill bubble and the virtual bubble provided by our Beats by Dre headphones. Popping the bubble so you can take notice of your surroundings.