THOUSANDS of people around the world will be gazing into stranger’s eyes for one minute on September 22.
The social experiment is for anyone who wants to experience the power of real human connection, says local artist Peter Sharp, founder of The Liberators International.
“When you’re looking into someone’s eyes you’re telling them, ‘You exist. You’re here. You’re valued. You’re human. I see you’.
“This is about empowering people and giving them a chance to participate in changing the story everyone knows; that we are losing ourselves in technology and becoming more artificially connected and less authentically connected.”
He says the event is particularly pertinent to Perth, the most isolated capital city in the world, where people have to drive most places.
“People from other countries or immigrants or the homeless… these people can slip through the cracks and not feel a part of community.”
Mr Sharp hosts global social experiments to encourage people to re-find their spark and embrace human connection, and earlier this year threw a communal dance party on the streets of Northbridge.
It is the fourth time the eye contact experiment has been held, and Mr Sharp says last year 300 cities were involved.
“It’s huge; it’s really viral in it’s form factor. It gives everyday citizens a reason to feel part of this global family, which is at the centre of all the work we create.”
Mr Sharp says he and a mate were inspired to hold the event after attending a 2010 exhibition at the New York Art Museum, where Marina Abramovic sat for seven hours a day, for 100 days, facing a chair that was almost continually occupied by a member of the audience, who held her gaze.
About five years ago they hit Perth’s city streets with a cardboard sign reading “Come share eye contact to experience something new”, and a camera.
“But it didn’t actually work,” laughs Mr Sharp. “My mate looked a little bit homeless; he had a beanie on and most people walked straight past our cardboard sign thinking he was asking for money.”
But they came back four days later with a new angle.
“We made a small Facebook event: we used a rope to create a space that we stood within, we printed proper signs and we wore business clothing because it’s in the business district so we wanted to dress as our audience and people treated us completely differently.”
“We couldn’t stop this flow of people coming in. We caused a lot of tears and a lot of beautiful moments with men and women; people claiming they saw their own daughter in a stranger’s eyes, or they felt this sense of connection they’d never felt before, and how blessed they felt to have experienced it.”
This year’s event will be held at Yagan Square in Perth, over World Peace weekend.
Attendees are encouraged to bring blankets, picnic rugs … and an open mind.
by MOLLY SCHMIDT