Still from Stalk (2008), 22.18 min video with vocal overlay

Part dystopian urban cartography, part spatial-poetic intervention, Stalk was originally created for the Positions Colloquium held in Vancouver in the fall of 2008, at the invitation of the Kootenay School of Writing. Subsequent exhibitions took place at the Judith E. Wilson Drama Studio in Cambridge, England, at the SPACES Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio, and at the Social Environmental Poetry Series at Exit Art in New York. 

The visual footage is documentation of a live performance that took place on the streets of Midtown Manhattan on June 17, 2008. The voiceover is a score written to accompany the edited footage. Among other sources since forgotten or lost, the appropriated language in the piece comes from: “Secret Orcon Interrogation Log Detainee 063, U.S. Department of Defense 2002” (a classified military account of the torture of Muhammed al-Qahtani that was leaked to the press and published in 2005); “Interested in Knowing More About Islam?,” a pamphlet obtained from a New York City taxi driver in the spring of 2007; Sappho fragments 60, 62 and 63; the Casio F91W Manufacturer’s Instruction Booklet; and comments made by passersby and performers that were overheard or recorded during the live performance. The background music (“Mood,” 2007) is used courtesy of the artist Rizzia. It first appeared on the Chain Tape Collective’s multi-artist album MRI Project, on which all tracks were composed using a set of sample recordings from an MRI machine. 

As of January 2017, 41 detainees remained prisoners at the DoD Guantanamo Bay Detention Center (aka “Gitmo”). 775 men and boys in total have been imprisoned and tortured at the site, many for a decade or more before being released without charges. Many were also held secretly, with no public release of their identities, and hence no access to lawyers, since the government could argue that habeas corpus laws do not apply to those not held on US soil. Many, including me, believe the leaked Interrogation Log constitutes evidence of war crimes.

The Casio F91W is a cheap, very popular digital watch that is distributed and sold globally. Mere possession of this watch by the defendant at the time of capture was considered evidence of terrorist ties by the US military in the tribunals held in Guantanamo. I purchased one at Target in 2004 shortly after the invasion of Iraq for around ten dollars.

Additional Material

“Notes Toward A Social Poiesis,” Laura Elrick

Written for the Positions Colloquium catalog in May 2008

 

Reviews and Critical Treatment

“Performance and Absence in the Heterotopian City,” Zoë Skoulding

From the book Contemporary Women’s Poetry & Urban Space: Experimental Cities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

“The Ideal Glass: On Laura Elrick’s Stalk and the Poetics of Spatial Practice,” David Wolach 

In Jacket 40