I am led into a space enveloped in white cloth. A voice comes over the speaker ‘stand on the white i’. ‘Okay’, I say, shuffling awkwardly to the spot. I feel incredibly self-conscious. The voice’s name is Alice, she says, and asks me a few questions about my eye contact with other people. Much like a therapy appointment I’m asked ‘how does it feel?’. I open up, feeling slightly nervous about sharing with a voice in the ceiling – are my answers weird? The voice tells me to watch a screen – ‘this is me’ she says. A girl with soft caramel brown hair stares back at me, the flicker of a smile on her lips.
She tells me to ‘look into her eyes for two minutes’. I stare intently at this pre-recorded image, hyper conscious of passing time. My mind whirrs constantly as I repeatedly tell myself ‘don’t look away’. After a certain time it’s natural, you feel a need to look away. But no, you must persist.
I make it through unscathed but slightly uncomfortable and I am now led to a mirror and urged to look myself in the eyes. The narcissist in me is irked by the unflattering lighting on the mirror. I stare into my eyes and feel the weight of the day flash back. Yet again I struggle to keep eye contact, even with myself.
‘This is all an experiment’, they say, ‘technology is brilliant, but it can’t mimic social interaction’. The plan is to create technology that allows for real connection, for eye contact and all that comes with it.
The voice’s name of Alice is fitting considering that I feel as if I’m in wonderland with the whites and reds and blacks that surround me, and the looking glass in front of me as I stare into my inner-self.
Alice and I take turns to look at each other, staring directly into the camera so the other feels as if you’re looking into their eyes. I feel her gaze bore into me. This has to be taken a step further of course. I soon see Alice in the flesh and share an intimate moment with her as we stare into each other’s eyes;each other’s minds. I am not saying you mind read, do not get me wrong, but there is an intensity that comes with this connection through gaze.
I leave feeling disorientated and incredibly reflective. Trapped in my own head, but reflecting on the headspace of others. This experience is truly novel and one thing I know is that, unlike Narcissus, I cannot stare at my reflection for hours at a time. This piece is perfect for social distancing and reflects upon our contact over the last few months through mediums such as Zoom. Be ready to look into yourself and push the boundaries in this immersive piece examining our interaction with others and ourselves.
@iContact: MIRROR TALK is on at the Camden People’s Theatre until 12 September. For more information, visit the Format Festival website.