For 18 months, Daniel Bye and secretly wrote an improvised play for all the world to see. #tag2012 was a durational drama, unfolding in real time, existing, at the moment, entirely through social media and the internet. Since roughly August 2011, we tweeted unadvertised as various different characters on Twitter. Slowly a story emerged from these characters. Some of them blurred into the non-fictional world, interacting with real people, or being taken as real. We didn't advertise what we were doing; we wanted people to stumble across them.
What happened? It seems that people were disappearing. Not just running away, they were disappearing into thin air. Survivors were beginning to share information despite an official blackout and the only connection seemed to be that the Disappeared were feeling deeply sad when they disappeared. But of course the disappearance of loved ones makes us sad too and so the condition risked turning into an epidemic. But still people are still disappearing: Katherine Rusholme, Crabapple, Trudi Weller, Tam Jones, Sabrina Adeoye, Sarah Fry, Jennie Harris, Anna Foster, Penny Bowles, Brian Jonson, Nick Mercer, Bartley Castle. A couple of high-profile disappearances forced the government's attention and soon it was attempting to roll out a 'Happiness Agenda' to prevent the society entirely vanishing.
But still people are still disappearing: Katherine Rusholme, Crabapple, Trudi Weller, Tam Jones, Sabrina Adeoye, Sarah Fry, Jennie Harris, Anna Foster, Penny Bowles, Brian Jonson, Nick Mercer, Bartley Castle.
In hindsight, it was an interesting but difficult project. Other 'performances' I've done online (for example this and this) were much shorter and more intense; it's easier to immerse yourself in a project like this over a shorter period. As a result, the project kind of faded out as we got really busy with other things and we found it difficult to bring it to a conclusion (there was talk about trying to create a real-world moment, but that proved difficult). Not advertising the accounts as fictional was possibly a mistake because it meant the accounts gained followers only very slowly, which didn't help the momentum or indeed impetus to tweet. Finally trying to run a couple of websites (now gone, alas) and maintain more than half a dozen Twitter accounts was tricky.
On the other hand, I really like the slow burn of the story, the improvisational quality of them; there are some really complicated lines of story and character. A couple of times Dan and I were tweeting simultaneously and dialogues emerged in an unpredictable way. There were some exciting moments where people engaged with the characters as if they were real. Ed Mitchell got slagged off by critics of the Lib Dems who didn't even check whether there was such an MP. And the individual Twitter accounts were rather enjoyable to write and I hope rather enjoyable to read. You can judge for yourself here:
- https://twitter.com/Tag2012 overall tweets, supposedly run by..
- https://twitter.com/markyatestalks conspiracy theorist
- https://twitter.com/MariaRusholme working class woman whose daughter disappeared
- https://twitter.com/EdMitchellMP her MP, quite pompous
- https://twitter.com/TheJoshCastle completely idiotic outside-the-box leader of a politics thinktank
- https://twitter.com/AnnaFoster86 Depressive teenager, disappears
- https://twitter.com/SallyEFoster Her sister
- https://twitter.com/AitkenPete Her sister’s boyfriend
- https://twitter.com/TomtheMiller His mate
- https://twitter.com/SirQuinnOfBeer His other mate
- https://twitter.com/conwhat Conservative health forum, run by...
- https://twitter.com/SarahWattis frazzled mum to...
- https://twitter.com/JennyWattis lefty student
- https://twitter.com/LordTate right-winger, involved in sex scandal
- https://twitter.com/StevenHFry Friend of Anna Foster
- https://twitter.com/DennisWells66 Sally’s workmate and huge porn fan
Rather excitingly, I can't really remember exactly which accounts were mine and which were Dan Bye's. I think I 'was' Maria, Ed, Josh, Anna, Quinn, conwhat, Sarah, Jenny, Lord Tate, Steven and Dennis but it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Dan was one or more of these. We managed, I think, to create plausible styles that didn't advertise themselves as pastiche (well, maybe Josh...).
#Tag2012 was a Pilot Theatre production in collaboration with Marcus Romer.