Contact without words. Our human nature. I look at you. You look at me. Go into yourself. Connect with yourself.

Inspired by the artist Marina Abramovic and her performance, “The Artist is Present”, we – Dragana from mIGRA.kULTand Julia from Weltenplaner – provided an eye contact experience at the TEDxDornbirn event last summer. Marina Abramovic invited visitors of The Museum of Modern Art in New York to sit down at a wooden table across from her and see her face to face, for as long as they are pleased. There was no speaking, it was all about communicating and connecting without words. Marina Abramovic gazed straight ahead into the eyes of the visitor seated across from her. Some stayed for a couple of minutes, others stayed for more than one hour. The performance demonstrates how emotional and powerful it can be to connect with others but also with oneself in silence.

Here you can watch a short video about Marina Abramovic’s “The Artist is Present”:

Both of us have been fascinated by this experience for a long time. When we heard about the topic of TEDxDornbirn – “Face it” – we felt that this would be a great opportunity to perform Abramovic’s “The Artist Is Present” ourselves. We literally faced strangers, and broke the distance – without saying a single word. Where as Marina Abramovic provided her experience daily for three months and without any time restrictions, we did two rounds of 45 minutes and restricted the eye contact experience to three minutes.

It was really special and unique. It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know humans, independent of various attributes or categories, such as gender, age or origin. We connected with strangers on a different level and it was each time a personal and intimate experience. With every person there was a different connection, but there was always a connection. It was beautiful to experience shared empathy for one another, without having spoken a single word.

We provided a box with paper and pen to leave anonymous feedback, if wished. We would love to share some of the participants’ thoughts with you:

“We look too much, and in the end, we only see a little…”

“Incredible experience. At the beginning I was really nervous, then relaxed. Don’t forget to breath. Just allow emotions to come and go. First, I was only focused on myself, then on her, then on me, then on her…It made me curious to get to know more about the other person. It felt like meditating together. It was only 3 mins, but it felt like two hours. Wow.”

“Makes the thoughts standing still and forces one in the present moment. Thank you.”

We are grateful to have been part of TEDxDornbirn and that we got the chance to participate with the eye contact experience. A big thank you also to all participants that engaged with us and faced us. For some more photos you can follow us no Instagram #connecthumans

Right now, we are working on a diversity project. We are using the medium of photography to show this topic from a different perspective and to build awareness what diversity means, as it means a lot more than nationals and foreigners. Furthermore, the project aims at giving individuals the opportunity to experience similarities within diversity, and, as an end result, recognize that we are all human beings. You can find more details about the project on Instagram #connecthumans or on our website www.connecthumans.at

Taking action for things that matter to you. Thank you!

Dragana & Julia