This weekend in multiple cities around Australia, hundreds of strangers will turn out to sit down and gaze deeply into one another's eyes.
Sound unusual? This year it has actually become a regular occurrence.
Since April, this eye-gazing event has become a monthly affair in various locations, hosted by a group known as the Human Connection Movement.
If testimonials from participants on the group's Facebook page are anything to go by, the experience of making such an intimate and meaningful connection with a stranger can be both moving and profound.
"It’s very touching. This is almost like making love with the eyes," says Mariana.
"In a way it’s a very vulnerable experience, at the same time it’s beautiful because you’re also saying I accept all of me and all of you, the good and the bad" - Nathan.
"The experience I've had this afternoon is profound, a connection that you just don't get in this society." - Naomi.
This time round the Melbourne and Sydney events will also be attended by casting agents for SBS'S upcoming documentary series Look Me In The Eye, which explores the power of eye contact.
So what's it all about? We caught up with the founder of the Human Connection Group, Sydney-based actor Igor Kreyman, to find out.
Q. What inspired you to create the Human Connection Movement?
Igor: I witnessed over the years that many of the people I would interact with, including myself, would feel uncomfortable maintaining eye contact, being an actor I was always fascinated by the human condition and I noticed that we as a society were writing a cultural narrative that exposed vulnerability as a weakness, but in reality I always saw it as one of our biggest strengths.
The catalyst to creating the movement was when I was exposed to eye-gazing through performance artist, Marina Abramovic's residency here in Sydney, I was completely blown away by how heart-opening it was and could instantaneously see the benefits that the exercise had in relation to releasing barriers between people and bringing humanity together on a global level.
So I decided to create a movement that facilitated events and workshops for the collective to be able to recognise and experience the benefits of maintaining eye contact with someone they'd never met before on a monthly/fortnightly basis.
Q. Why do you think eye-gazing (and eye contact) in particular is so powerful?
Igor: When we maintain eye contact with someone long enough, the masks come off we release many of the self-imposed barriers that keep humanity from connecting on a deeper level. When we eye-gaze (maintain eye contact) we are mirroring each other's inner state, we begin to see aspects of ourselves being reflected in the other person and it becomes an opportunity to practice awareness, compassion, patience and love.
You can see it as an open eye meditation that involves two people, where both people naturally begin to notice through the connection that there is no such thing as separation, that we are all in this together, and that we all inherently want the same thing, which is to be seen for who we truly are.
"It becomes an opportunity to practice awareness, compassion, patience and love"
Q. What are some of the most memorable outcomes for participants at your previous eye gazing events?
Igor: We had a married couple share some tears during the exercise, they were raving on about how even though they lived together for so long they never really took the time out to look at each other, and that when they began eye gazing, it was as though they were seeing each other again for the first time.
Q. Should we all spend more time giving each other proper eye contact and our full attention in our everyday lives?
Igor: One hundred per cent. It will change the way we interact with each other, increase cooperation, reduce stress, people will feel more of a sense of belonging with one another. It has such a profound effect on how we choose to communicate because we are developing more empathy, compassion and understanding of one another.
Want to attend the Human Connection Movement's events?
- Sydney: Saturday September 17 in Hyde Park
- Melbourne: Saturday September 17 in City Square
- Canberra: Sunday September 18 in Haig Park
This weekend the Sydney event will also be attended by casting agents for SBS's unique upcoming documentary series Look Me in the Eye. SBS is looking for people who genuinely want to reconcile with their estranged loved ones after years apart.
Watch the Eye-Gazing movement in action below: