THE EYE CONTACT EXPERIMENT
BARCELONA, SPAIN, 2016
THE EYE CONTACT EXPERIMENT - BARCELONA 2016
Launched in 2015 by a dozen of Australians previously known as « The Liberators », « the biggest eye contact experiment » proposes to fight the loss of human connexion through street meetings, where people are invited to « share one minute » with a stranger by simply looking at another in the eyes. Anyone is welcome.
It's not new that big cities and post-modern ways of life have annihilated the most common connexions between people : we don't talk to each other anymore, barely looking at our neighbors, when we're not squarely frightened by each others. Always annoyed by the others on the subway or in the streets, the contemporary city-dweller seems to be less and less open to others - and maybe less and less open to his « self ».
Swallowed by a lack of time and a million technological screens lowering his focus, the post-modern individual complains about a cold society in which connexion is harder and harder, but yet doesn't do anything about it. Modest and simple, the experiment starts from these realities, proposes to do something, and hopes it can change our relationship to others. Or at least the way we see them, in our daily lives.
As far as the experiment already took place in more than 160 cities across the world, I guess we can call it a success.
I first covered the event in Paris in 2015, finding the initiative simply beautiful, simple and smart, and moreover, saying something in itself about today's society. I was amazed by the intensity of the moment : a minute without talking while looking into a stranger's eyes actually does constitute an « experiment ».
I was surprised to see that much people Place de la République at the end of the day in October, while it was starting to be cold. And I was stroke by what people did and said at the end : « I won't look at strangers the same way in the public transportation » or « let's go and have a drink ». « It's really something we need as big city inhabitants ». Yes, I agree.
Both in Paris and Barcelona, what stroke me was the expressions of people.
First, a very calm face and a fixed attention - exactly the opposite of the stressed-out faces we run into everyday, and the million things people are doing in public spaces in big cities, probably trying to escape the anonymous crowd, if not even themselves in there.
Second, a body language that evolves, and actually shows that it doesn't take a lot to reconnect with each others : it's very possible indeed, that all we have to do is to look at each others' in the eyes...
This report shows the Barcelona's Eye Contact that took place in October 2016.
It was funny to see that a good half of the people couldn't help talking, while in Paris participants would be much more disciplined or shy, and this little cultural thing gave me the desire to cover the event in other countries. At the end of the meeting, unlike in Paris the year before, a lot of people decided to go back on the plaça del Sol to continue the experiment, and sit in silence to look at a new stranger in the eyes.
I called the series AGORA because the experiment takes place on public plazas or squares.
These public spaces are full of restaurants, stores or bars in our cities, that is to say, of public places where we pay to meet or buy. They are also often landmarks of public transportation, thus rhyming with practical meeting points, but crowded and uncomfortable anonymous thoroughfare for big-cities dwellers.
AGORA is originally the ancient greek name of these public places, where people would meet to discuss local problems - it's the social, political and commercial space of the « city » .