Where Did the Idea Come From?
We came up with the idea after noticing a common thread of isolation in today’s society. This video aims to address the vulnerability that is often avoided in making sustained eye contact with members of the public. Holding eye contact with another person can evoke many feelings which can be scary, especially when in today’s society we tend to repress our deepest emotions. It calls on true courage to trust another being to see you and accept you just as you are, in a complete state of vulnerability. We also noticed that making eye contact with strangers is commonly intertwined with the idea of unwanted sexual attention. We believe eye contact is much deeper and far more meaningful than anything a sleaze might be able to bring to it. So instead of complaining about this misrepresentation we found an inspiring way to allow members of the public to actively participate in the other side of the story.
We were also inspired by a fellow Liberator and videographer Elliot Cahill who helped remind us of the possibility to create this experiment as well as a social art piece that Marina Abramovic performed at MOMA in 2010. Although we had a few differences to her work, it followed the same theme of highlighting the power of love and connection.
Results We Saw in Person
The moment we set up our signs up, busy onlookers came to a baffled standstill. We had around 10 of the Liberators in the area prepared to step forward if the public were unsure about participating. The public however gathered round to participate within seconds, and heart-felt tears started streaming within minutes. It’s incredible how profound the experience of sharing a meaningful connection with another member of the public can be. It also allowed us to realise how deep down, we’re all searching for moments of understanding and connection with one another. Sharing eye contact is one of those ways to uncover this.
Michelle Passmore’s Personal Experience
The most touching moment in my experience happened as we were packing up. An Indigenous woman in office attire who I had noticed watching from the sidelines for quite some time, sidled her way over to me asking “are you moving to do this somewhere else now?”. I could feel that she asked this because she had a pull to participate, and was worried that she had missed out. So I said “We are packing up, but I’d be happy to share eye contact with you right now if you like”. She indicated that she wanted to, then said “I can see that a lot of people were crying, I don’t think I will cry, but the wind can make my eyes watery sometimes”.
I reassured her that there was no expectation for tears, that it’s simply about connection and whatever happens is perfectly fine. So I stood with her and we maintained eye contact for a good couple of minutes. I could feel emotion well up inside of me as I saw true tears forming in her eyes. And then they started streaming. We got lost in one another. I saw her true inner beauty. We finished with a heartfelt hug as we wiped away our tears. She thanked me and said this really made her day.
Shyam Drury’s Personal Experience
One of the interactions was hilarious. A short dark haired woman stepped into the hula hoop I had placed in front of me and asked me why we were doing this. I told her that we just wanted to give people an opportunity to connect. She mentioned how people never connect now because they are always occupied with this (gesturing at her phone). Then someone called. And she answered. And kept eye contact with me. And described the whole experience to her friend on the phone as it was happening. She kept calling me handsome and described my beard. Strangely – it seemed all quite connected. She was present to what was happening in the moment. And after her call, we spent some time gazing in silence. Then she hugged me and left. This moment was captured on camera here:
Why Did We Do This?
It’s very seldom that we actually have the chance for authentic human connections to be established with strangers in public, if we get stopped by a stranger in public there is often a financial incentive to buy, sign up and get you to do something for someone else. Above any of those reasons, we’re far more interested in allowing humanity to experience it’s common connection. The more we’re able to create and share these tangible moments, the closer we come to understanding we’re on this Earthship together as one big global family. Our mission to create inspiring real-world experiences for our shared humanity to be felt in public.
Since posting this video 4 days ago it has received more than 190,000 views and multiple news outlets have reposted the video globally.