Performance Art: “Follower” by Lauren McCarthy

In a world where celebrity may be counted by the number of digital “followers” you amass, it is tempting to take the language literally: what if these people really followed you, in person?

Lauren McCarthy could not resist the temptation, and create a performance art piece, “Follower”.

The lucky selected applicants receive a private location tracker app, and on their day to be followed, someone follows them. “Your Follower follows you physically in your everyday life for a day. They aim to maintain a distance that is within your consciousness but just beyond your sight.” (Naturally, the tracker documents the day with images and video.)

Your Follower acts as a passive observer and remote companion, they do not offer physical protection services or interact with you in any way.”


This is an interesting concept. McCarthy is thinking about “What is the relationship between attention and surveillance?”  How is it different to have one real human follow, compared to thousands of digital “followers”? How does surveillance feel when it is personal.

McCarthy reports that this is quite intimate for the follower, who observes and attends to the subject very carefully, without directly interacting. The subjects report a variety of motives.

This project is certainly made easier using a mobile app. You could certainly follow someone this way without the app, but using it not only makes tracking more foolproof (especially if they drive somewhere in a car), it also serves as an indirect, continuing consent to be followed. If you load the app and keep it running, you signal that it is OK to follow you, without having to communicate directly with the anonymous follower. That’s a nice feature, and also serves as a little life lesson: if you don’t want to be tracked, delete those stupid apps!

Thinking about this project, I wonder about extending and expanding it.

I suppose you could explore the contemporary digital “rating” game, adding “feedback” to the app. This might get very unpleasant, if your follower can signal “like”, “dislike”, “I’m getting bored”, and so on through out your day. Ick!

One follower? Why not several, or a whole flash mob to follow you? At this point “no-hassle unseen companion” becomes celebrity. If one person looking over your life is nice, then ten or 100 should be nicer, right? Ick!

Or, we could play networking games. Two or more people who know each other (lovers?) could each have a follower, unknown to each other. When you are together, you are being followed by your own and the other’s follower! What does my follower think of him? His follower think of me? Will the followers see each other? Will they meet? Will they like each other?


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