Reviews Performance Published 10 September 2012

Follow

online

Authenticity and the digital.

Bojana Jankovic

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where Scottee stands on the subject of Twitter, even if his latest project Follow revolves, at least nominally, around his attempts to get a verified account (reserved for celebrities in danger of having tweet-personators) and surpass the number of followers acquired by Russell Grant (40,000). This ‘live and evolving documentary’ unfolds across four short films, directed by Tim Brunsden, during which Scottee muses on the subject of social media in general, and his presence on various platforms – but seems to do little to actually attract more attention to his online persona.

Scottee’s interest in delivering on the promise is almost non-existent: four minutes into the first episode for example he declares the task for the day is to ‘think about Twitter’, sans laptop or smartphone. Scottee is perhaps more interested in how we discern what is authentic (or even true) amongst all the terabytes that get plastered around the internet on a daily basis.

Dressed up in various diva outfits he quickly abandons his initial aim, and instead offers a manufactured authenticity of his own: he stages a filmed breakup, and requests the ex to post his decision on Twitter; he receives phone calls from friends worried about his irrelevant preoccupations and, back in virtual reality, even receives a threatening comment by someone going under the creative pseudonym of YouBigfatfailure. Everything in this project is as trustworthy as your average Twitter account; in other words, it’s plausible and at the same time quite possibly manufactured. With most of the content coming from indiscernible voices and inevitably anonymous online profiles, and the associations that arrive when the ‘making of’ films start looking more like reality show segments, Follow perhaps attempts to mock the current obsession with Twitter, much more than it celebrates its existence and importance.

Even if the mockery never becomes drastic, Scottee keeps coming up with stories  which pinpoint just how irrelevant social media content can be. He becomes obsessed by So Damn True!, a bizarre feed filled with generic truisms and advice on friendship, true love and standing up for yourself. Scottee’s infatuation seems to transform into bewilderment at the fact that this presumably imaginary teenager has somehow gathered more than a million fans, who read, retweet and spread her wisdom around cyberspace, giving it visibility and relevance. In response he stages (or suffers, who can tell?), a blow that arrives from the virtual world straight into his studio: where Scottee gets attacked, presumably by YouBigfatfailure. Together, So Damn True and YouBigfatfailure create a clear picture of the abundance of not even particularly entertaining trash that clogs up the internet – from threatening if formulaic attacks, that could very well be fake, to fake people who make 140 word-long motivational speeches. And while Follow certainly does manage to expose how difficult it can be to decide what’s real, and what’s not, both on- and off-line, it ends too quickly to expand on any of the many themes it opens up – including the staggering seriousness with which both the general public and the media take online gibber-gabber and the fact that one’s number of followers is often taken as a measure of success and acceptance.

What’s most unclear however is whether Scottee, an avid twitterer himself, actually takes all the ideas in Follow seriously, or whether he thinks that all this hoo-ha about social media is a bit over exaggerated. With too many sketchy storylines that quickly get abandoned (the break-up, the troll, the fictional twitter diva), it sometimes seems as if Scottee is desperately searching around for a subject that would interest him enough to carry it on for longer than a single episode.

What Follow lacks is some sort of viral credibility; perhaps if Scottee  left traces of campaigning against his troll, or establishing verifiable contact with So Damn True, or even worked on getting more followers: perhaps then it would be easier to believe he is truly interested in shaking up the Twittersphere.


Bojana Jankovic

Bojana Jankovic is one half of There There, a company composed of two eastern European theatre directors who turned from theatre to performance only to repeatedly question their decision. Before shifting to collaborative projects, she worked as a director and dramaturg on both classics and contemporary texts. She also wrote for Teatron, a Belgrade theatre magazine. She has a soft spot for most things pop, is surprisingly good at maths for a thespian, and will get back to learning German any day now.

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Cast includes Scottee

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