This is the final version of Making Contact, a video initiated and created by Mary Beth Edelson, with video production by Gregory Wendt. It is part of a decade's long exploration of eye-contact among strangers in public places that Mary Beth Edelson has been performing in numerous locations since the 1970's. This video takes place on the Carbondale campus of Southern Illinois University in early 2010.
The focus of this performance is to take steps toward reaching connectivity between people who might otherwise not make eye contact. And to present the potential for a powerful moment of vicarious recognition of the other through the agency of the collective unconscious**
A sound piece specifically designed for the performance by composer, Ron Coulter provides the soundtrack which was played from the campus clocktower during the hour when the performance took place.
Making Eye Contact was first performed by Edelson in New Orleans in the 1970s in collaboration with Suzanne Lacy’s River Meetings. Lacy produced a dinner party for this meeting, and Edelson’s aspect of the project engaged people from both sides of the river in making eye contact for an extended period of time . Historically the people on either side of the river had never met before, and had been at odds with each other.
Additionally Making Eye Contact has been performed in various European countries over a period of time in both gallery and street settings , but most notably in 2004 during a complex 3 month project in Norway at the Nordland Kunst and Filmskole, Kablevag, during the Lofoten International Art Fair (LIAF) located within the arctic circle. During this time the” ice was broken” between recently arrived refugees from war zones and traditionally bashful native Scandinavians.
Most recently performed within an intimate gallery setting at Debra Coulton, Houston Tx. in which people that Edelson did not know maintained eye contact with her for as long as it was comfortable to do so.
Each such contact is unique, intimate and revealing. Some find it supportive and calming while others view the experience as a test of wills for dominance, (It is not meant to be a staring contest.) Others have referred to the experience as looking into the eye of the other’s soul and finding tranquility and rejuvenation . The phenomena of non-verbal communication can produce a profound alchemical amazement .
**Since not even Jung provided a clear explanation of what the collective unconscious is, as an artist this provides license. I began working with the theory of the collective unconscious in the early 1970s as a result of a 5 year long seminar I participated in at Georgetown University psychology dept . with distinguished scholars, they encouraged my creative experimentation with the concept.