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Overview

The project consists of an exhibition (initially based on the Sunshine Coast – at later stages to become a traveling exhibition), a website, and a book.

The exhibition (see “Exhibition” tab for more details) is to consist often video screens. Each screen (triggered by a sensor) when a viewer stands in front of it, will show a video of a different face staring back at the viewer, for a full 100 seconds. Example The screen is surrounded by a cowling that ensures that the viewer and the face on the video screen can share an intimate moment (ie: it allows for one viewer at a time only).

Interspersed between the video screens are text panels (laminated paper mounted on a wooden base), each containing a story from one of the subjects’ lives. These stories are written in an SMS- style format, with minimal grammar and punctuation. None of the stories gives away its subject’s gender or ethnicity. Example

An element of interactivity is included in the project in that visitors to the exhibition / installation must try to guess which stories go with which faces.

Access to a website is provided to all visitors (via a personal code supplied only at the exhibition), on which they can register their guesses as to which faces go with which stories.

The Exhibition

The exhibition (see “Exhibition” tab for more details) is to consist of eight to ten video screens. Each screen (triggered by a sensor) when a viewer stands in front of it, will show a video of a different face staring back at the viewer, for a full 100 seconds. The screen is surrounded by a cowling that ensures that the viewer and the face on the video screen can share an intimate moment (ie: it allows for one viewer at a time only).

Interspersed between the video screens are text panels (laminated paper mounted on a wooden base), each containing a story from one of the subjects’ lives. These stories are written in an SMS- style format, with minimal grammar and punctuation. None of the stories gives away its subject’s gender or ethnicity.

An element of interactivity is included in the project in that visitors to the exhibition / instalment must try to guess which stories go with which faces.

Access to a website is provided to all visitors (via a personal code supplied only at the exhibition), on which they can register their guesses as to which faces go with which stories.

Initially to be shown in The Lane in Palmwoods, then in the Old Ambo in Nambour, the exhibition will run for 28 days each showing. A collective viewing audience of around 800 people is projected over the entire 56-day run.

Branding

Cowlings

The Need

Attitudes towards Multiculturalism

Attitudes towards multiculturalism in Australia are tending towards the negative among the population, despite the fact that Australia is currently suffering a skilled labour shortage and requires immigration (in the short to medium term at least) in order to overcome this issue.

While surveys asking respondents to rate multiculturalism as a concept show multiculturalism being received positively, when individuals are faced with having to deal with other cultures on a local level, the opposite often seems true. In a study conducted in 2104, Kathleen Blair, writing in the Journal of Intercultural studies cited previous studies in that:

(1) intercultural citizens may prefer global interculturalism over local interculturalism, (2) some groups may dismiss the assertion that intercultural interaction leads to personal growth and enrichment and (3) the ideal of an intercultural citizen requires a level of understanding that is either superficial or utopian.

She then goes on to note that:

Despite an official multicultural policy, young Australians did not express intercultural values, fully, at all times, or on all issues. The data present a difficult situation in which the participants express a fear of ‘others’ due to a lack of knowledge and understanding, but also, a reticence to gain a greater understanding of other cultures, specifically in regards to religious practices/beliefs. Arguably, Australian multiculturalism has succeeded in creating intercultural spaces (e.g. schools and universities) where young people are obliged to mix. The data, however, begs the question of whether these spaces function in a way that enables cultural interaction.

Certainly the increase in the understanding of and tolerance for people from other cultures is born out by the rise in recent years of political parties and personalities in Australia whose policies are built around an agenda of cultural exclusivity.

On a local level, in the Sunshine Coast, where the pilot project is to take place, few residents are aware that 1 in 4 people living in the local government area were born overseas, while the federal-government-funded Migrant Centre in Nambour cites “widespread stereotypes and assumptions made about people from different cultures and backgrounds and what is ‘Australian’” within the community.

The project was born after repeated experiences of being the subject of persistent, unashamed staring on public transport in another country, and the questions that this raised for the artist personally: Is staring at strangers really a universal taboo? Why is it such a difficult wall for westerners (at least) to breach? Why do these people assume it is socially acceptable to stare at me but not at people of their own racial group? What assumptions do these people make about me in general?

Having asked and received various answers to the last question on many occasions, I came to believe that such assumptions are more often than not quite wrong.

So one of the most important concepts around which 100 Seconds revolves is the breaking down of the assumptions people make based on appearance. Aboriginal, Asian and Middle-Eastern subjects are included in the initial group of participants, in order to give a more representative cross-section of the Australian populace, and as a way of deliberately forcing face to face interactions with people from those backgrounds, and to challenge popular assumptions about them. It is also intended to demonstrate the commonalities that bind us together as members of the species homo sapiens regardless of the superficial differences (culture) that seem to separate us.

Attitudes towards Art

According to the Australia Council for the Arts National Arts Participation Survey 2017 results (http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/research/connecting-australians/), 73% of people surveyed believe that the arts are an important way to get different perspectives on a topic or issue. However, 58% of Australians feel that art requires an understanding to appreciate it fully, and 43% of respondents believed that arts tend to attract people who are somewhat elitist or pretentious.

These results suggest that while people are open to the idea of arts as providing food for thought and having valuable input into individuals’ judgement and thinking, many still perceive the arts as being elitist or beyond the grasp of the average individual – at least being something that requires an understanding of to appreciate.

100 Seconds intends to combat these perceptions by employing an interactive strategy whereby visitors to the installation are given the opportunity to register their guesses online as to which stories go with which faces, and in doing so, should discourage perceptions of the project being elitist or needing specific education in order to understand; the idea being that even children can take part.

Face to Face Interactions

In their paper Mistakingly Seeking Solitude published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Nicholas Epley and Juliana Schroeder of the University of Chicago noted that:

Aristotle famously argued that man is by nature a social animal, but people in the company of strangers often look to be anything but social. Instead of treating each other as possible sources of wellbeing, strangers in close contact often seem quite ready to ignore each other completely, treating each other more like objects than like fellow social beings.
For one of the most highly social species on the planet, who see members benefit significantly from forming connections with other people, this seems paradoxical.
Why would highly social animals in the company of strangers so routinely ignore each other?

The paper, written after a year-long study of stranger interactions goes on to conclude that people are happier following interactions with strangers than when in isolation. In the study, this held true regardless of personality type (extrovert/introvert).

There are numerous studies showing that modern smartphone culture has had a negative impact on the number and quality of face to face stranger interactions that occur in our daily lives, as well as lower levels of empathic concern (Misra, Cheng, Genevie, & Yuan, 2014, Przybylski and Weinstein (2012), for example).

Brignall and van Valey (2005) analysed the effects of technology among “current cyber-youth” – those who have grown up with the internet as an important part of their everyday life and interaction rituals. The authors discovered that due to the pervasive use of the Internet in education, communication and entertainment, there has been a significant decrease in face-to-face interaction.
They suggest that the decrease in the amount of time youth spend interacting face-to-face may eventually have “significant consequences for their development of social skills and their presentation of self” (p. 337).

The 100 Seconds exhibition space is designed (within venue limitations) to be a space where face to face interactions can be conducted with a feeling of safety and in the absence of judgement. One of the main concepts behind the project is that face to face interactions are precious, and important. Visitors are requested to turn off mobile phones, and the booths are designed to promote an intimate one-on-one experience rather than a crowd of people gawking at a face.

Summary

100 Seconds aims to address these attitudes by:

1) Challenging assumptions people make about others’ perceived race or ethnicity;
2) Demonstrating that art does not have be dry and only for people who are educated in its secrets and by showing that art can be fun and interactive.
3) Opening a platform for face to face interaction in a safe environment, thereby allowing people to discover / rediscover the pleasure that can be taken from interaction with and coming to know a stranger.

 

Support

100 Seconds has received support from the Sunshine Coast Council, in the form of a RADF grant, as well as numerous businesses.

Contact the Organiser

For media enquiries, contact: David Peart – 100seconds@davidpeart.com
Or call 0403806355

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