They came before I was open, standing outside my door but inside my protective wall. They took photos of my door. I watched them.
When my doors were unlocked, one of them bought tickets at the entrance. They were polite but I could see that they were watching me in a way that was different from the normal visitors. Looking for gaps and seams, looking at how I was prepared to be shown.
They moved through me like all the others, reading, taking some notes, taking some photos and making some sketches. They paid careful attention to the ways I was left unguarded.
They moved around more boldly, looking now at my employees and the other visitors with the same examining gaze. I wasn’t sure how I felt about them, but all I could do was watch.
When they left, I was relieved. But then they came back.
They stood near a tour that passed through me every weekend. A large and passive group. The group stood around listening while loaded up with bags, coats and cameras. I have a public coat-check, but most tourists are too careful to let their things remain unguarded in my cloakroom. These visitors stayed on the outskirts of the tour, watching, taking notes, and occasionally penetrating the group or abandoning it mid-history. They were only pretending to be interested – they were looking for other things.
They began doing things to me. Standing inside my hidden compartments, waiting in the dark, watching. Holding positions that had been previously mine. I felt, what? Exposed? Vulnerable? Violated? They brought a buzzing tension, a level of curiosity, tenderness, but also invasiveness, despite its subtle restraint. I remember when my compartments were used this way before, but I was built for this type of watching, and I am familiar with it, it’s all I know. But in the many years since that time, I have shed many layers of protection, and was not prepared for this coordinated trespass. I accept that I must be looked at, but I also determine what I show and how I show it. These outsiders wanted to get inside me and reconstruct who watched whom and for what purpose. I was disturbed.
Finally they tired of their game, took a few more photos of my Lenins and light fixtures. Then, mercifully, they left. I waited until they were safely out of sight, and then exhaled.