Senior uses Twitter to remold sculpture dialogue

By VICTORIA HILLS ’14 

Co-Editor in Chief

Last Wednesday, two days after the mostly-naked statue of a sleepwalking man was installed at the edge of the main road through campus, Lily Elsner ’14 created the WellesleySleepwalker Twitter account. She gave the Sleepwalker a bio line—“I sleep. I dream. I chafe.”—and his own voice. For a dozing middle-aged white dude, he’s amazingly well versed in what’s hip and happening; the sleepwalker is as likely to reference Thoreau as John Mayer or “Teen Wolf.”

Like many members of the Wellesley College community, Elsner was upset by the media’s largely negative and condescending portrayals of students’ reactions to Tony Matelli’s recently installed “Sleepwalker” sculpture. Unlike most other students, Elsner has actively tried to alter the public perception of the student body as “terrified” and “terrorized.”

She decided on a tongue-in-cheek approach to skewering biased perceptions of Wellesley students after scrolling through a Facebook news feed littered with humorously captioned photos of friends posing with the statue.

“I saw a lot of pictures where people were being really creative and coming up with hilarious poses and all sorts of references to other creative works, and this was very contrary to all the things I’d seen in the media,” Elsner said. “All these media sources were coming out about how we’re an all-girls school and we’re just so babyish and immature and we don’t know how to deal with a man in his panties. And I just felt that all 2,400 of us current Wellesley students were being painted in a light that I didn’t agree with.”

By Thursday morning, the account had about 80 followers. By Thursday night, nearly 200 people had subscribed to the Sleepwalker’s tweets, and “People” had published an article that was as much about the statue’s Twitter as the statue itself. Later that day, WellesleySleepwaker was featured on Buzzfeed and the front page of the CNN Videos page. The Sleepwalker currently has 538 followers.

WellesleySleepwalker’s tweets are almost uniformly hilarious. Most are accompanied by images of the statue—surrounded by students, slow-dancing with a snowman or peeking out from under a Miller Lite baseball cap. There’s a photoshopped tweet of the Sleepwalker’s face replaced by Nic Cage’s, whose casually terrifying expression is paired with the caption “#Matelli made a good call when he ditched #NicCage as his model. #phew.”

Elsner, who currently serves as the Wellesley College Chief Justice, stressed that she takes care to uphold the College’s honor code tenants of honesty, integrity and respect as she constructs the Sleepwalker’s Twitter. Although she declined to comment on whether she thought the statue should be removed, she did say the purpose of WellesleySleepwalker’s Twitter is not to mock or minimize anyone’s reactions to the statue.

“I felt that as long as everything I showed was respectful and not offensive, I could really get the perspective out there that Wellesley students are fun and not afraid of the sculpture, that we’re not afraid to touch it and really engage with it,” Elsner said.

She admitted that part of the draw of creating a Twitter is how easily the account could be discovered by the media. Elsner wanted journalists to see the student body engaging with the statue humorously, and not just with anger. “With Twitter, the whole point was to get it off campus,” Elsner said.

Much of the content on the Twitter comes from Elsner herself, although some tweets include others’ images that she obtained permission to share. Very few tweets are submissions.

“Most of the creeper shots of people taking pictures of the statue are mine—I’ve been taking them just because I find it so ludicrous that people are clogging up the main intersection on the campus,” said Elsner.

“I just want to point out how silly a lot of this is,” she added.

WellesleySleepwalker’s Tweets are heavily influenced by what followers enjoy the most. Tweets with images tend to be more popular than text-only posts. Photoshopped Tweets do best of all: the Nic Cage Tweet has been favorited 13 times, while an image of the Sleepwalker straddling a wrecking ball à la Miley Cyrus has a whopping 95 retweets and 73 favorites.

WellesleySleepwalker follows only three other Twitter accounts: Wellesley College (@Wellesley), the David Museum (@theDavisMuseum) and ZzzQuil (@ZzzQuil), an account dedicated to “slumber-obsessed, snooze-devoted, sleep enthusiasts near and far.”

1 Comment

  • Jase says:

    The “largely negative and condescending” press wall well earned. I grew up at Wellesley and I cannot think of anything that would have been more embarrassing than a bunch of people complaining about a sculpture. You are supposed to be thinkers, not whiners. And nobody I know who is the victim of sexual violence would use this as a way to heal. This is a joke, Wellesley women — the way you have responded to this is pathetic. You need to grow up and get off campus a few hours every semester!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.