Can strangers feed each other and still feel comfortable?
This thought has been in my head for years before I finally started making a project with it. The thing is that feeding is such an intimate and basic act but also deals with letting go of control, acceptance and power balance that it is not easy to find a way to use it in a sensible way. If you talk to psychologists they would tell you how feeding is subconsciously intertwined with boundaries, sexuality and bonding. Either in a good or in a bad way the connotations are endless.
The reason why I wanted to explore feeding is that everybody has been fed as a child but that in adulthood hardly anybody gets fed anymore. There are cultures where feeding is more of a part of life than in others but overall being fed by a complete stranger is something uncommon to most people.
Why a stranger? I figured that, since feeding is such a precarious activity, which requires caution and care from both sides, it would create a unique connection between people. At the same time, being fed by a stranger can also be a completely horrific experience.
I was intrigued by the idea of creating a positive and safe but slightly scary experience to really make new pathways in the participant’s brains.
It took me a while to find out that the way to be fed by someone AND feel safe and comfortable is only possible when there is no eye contact between the two. Eye contact makes people feel extremely self conscious which puts the focus of the interaction on behaving socially acceptable. By blocking the eyesight the ‘feedee’ can relax and feels more or less anonymous. Especially when using these thin sheets I have been using the subtile covering creates a feeling of secureness.
Also the feeder is emotionally involved. Feeling someone when able to make eye contact can cause nervousness which blocks genuine interaction.
As you can see in these images I have been creating smaller workshops before pouring the idea into a larger project. We’ve been testing with edible shapes and sizes, storytelling and sound as an orchestrated feeding experience. I have been doing smaller workshops on feeding without the textile sheets, just to experience the power of feeding combined with storytelling. It’s interesting to see how feeding, when done in a careful way, can create beautiful and surprising experiences between two people. Even when done very rudimentary.
I guess it’s because we all understand the basic act of being fed.
Alexander Zschokke Chief Executive Officer | Franke Holding
Our guests were deeply impressed by the insights into such a broad, and relevant variety of subject areas. The entire Franke team would like to thank you very much for being a speaker at our event. Your presence and energy contributed a large part to our success. We are very happy that you have made such a big effort to excite our audience. You’ve made the event truly unique. We hope that you enjoyed the occasion as well.
What really strikes me in all these projects whether it be tests, orchestrated workshops or full performances, is that people are really kind to each other. Exploring a setting where one person is put in a vulnerable position creates a natural power balance where the other person is being careful and considerate towards the other person.
I have seen complete strangers holding hands, wiping the other person’s mouth, whispering secrets and gently caressing the other person’s arm.
Shifting power balance through feeding works best if the feeder is not only feeding but also telling stories. Stories create the psychological visual effect of the food being fed.
All humans have been fed. All humans have imagination and all humans have the ability to care for another. All combined these workshops and performances create a strong base as research for my work but also a unique, once in a lifetime experience for all participants.