Eye Contact

April 16, 2013

By Gabrielle. Photos by Marco Anelli.

I meet a lot of people, especially at conferences like Alt (Will we meet in June?) and Mom 2.0 Summit (Will we meet in May?), and sometimes I forget a name. Or three. But what I always seem to retain is the memory of a good conversation. About anything under the sun; the topic doesn’t really matter as much as the enjoyment that lingers awhile afterwards. To me, the best conversations are about being interested and engaged, and attempting to maintain awesome eye contact.

The eye contact part is often more difficult than anything, don’t you think? Are you good at it, or are you more of a magpie and easily distracted by shiny objects? (I’d say I’m okay, but not great. I totally get distracted.)

I saw this clip via Swiss Miss from Marina Abramović’s The Artist is Present performance at the Museum of Modern Art, back in 2010, and can’t get it out of my mind for two reasons. One, her performance was a 736-hour and 30-minute static and silent piece where museum visitors waited in line to sit across from her and look into her eyes. I can’t imagine over 700 hours of silent anything, can you? (Don’t answer that, moms of wailing newborns and babies who never sleep!)

And two, the eye contact that was required must have taken such an emotional toll! In fact, there was a Tumblr created during this exhibit called Marina Abramović Made Me Cry, with photographs of those who cried and the length of time that lapsed before they did. Shockingly, some sat across from her for over an hour! How long would you last?

P.S. – How romantic is the moment Marina sees her former love, Ulay? As the story goes, the two had a relationship in the 70s. When they felt like the affair was over, they decided to walk The Great Wall of China, each from opposite ends, meeting for the last time in the middle and never seeing each other again. That last hug must have been heartbreaking.

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April 19, 2013 at 7:01 am
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{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Robin April 16, 2013 at 10:47 am

Thanks for sharing this! The moment between Marina and Ulay is so beautiful, so honest and so raw. I think that that truthful unscripted emotion, that was the true art of the whole piece.


2 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:49 am

I totally teared up while watching it. Amazing stuff.


3 Marija Taraba April 16, 2013 at 11:11 am

I am very proud of Marina! I especially love that she is born and raised in Belgrade, Serbia where I am from as well… She caries that energy into the world!


4 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:49 am

I would be proud of her too. Yay Serbia!


5 Shannon { A Mom's Year } April 16, 2013 at 12:23 pm

This is one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen in my life. I love how Ulay straightens his jacket as he prepares for Marina to see him. I’m so glad she “broke” to reach for his hands! The audience couldn’t have known what was going on between the two, but I love that they sensed something special was happening and cheered.

My younger son has Asperger’s, and difficulty making eye contact can be one of the challenges of autism. I honestly feel like Will’s ability to make eye contact is really good, but it’s still put the issue on my radar. Maybe all the years of helping him look in my eyes and focus has taught me to focus on others, too. I hope so, anyway!


6 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:51 am

Wow, Shannon. I had not thought of this piece and how it relates to children who are uncomfortable with eye contact. I’m sure your experiences add even more meaning for you. I’m so glad for your comment.


7 beka April 16, 2013 at 12:38 pm

i loved this! so amazing. i looked up the little info about their love story and do you know they each walked over 1,500 miles to get to the middle of the wall? amazing. what a love story.


8 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:53 am

Such an epic story! Doesn’t it feel like it should be a movie?

I’m in awe of people like that. I hear their story and think: Oh. They are true artists.


9 Azra April 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

What a powerful moment. It made me cry… I don’t know why?
I always look at someone’s eyes( they are the mirror of the soul) when I talk to them. You can hear and see so much only if you look.
Thank you for sharing.


10 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:55 am

You’re so right, Azra! Makes me want to get better at eye contact. Especially with my kids. So often, I find myself chatting with them while I’m busy doing something else, and I’m not looking at them in the eye.

This morning, I was talking with little June as I did the dishes, and when I finally looked at her face, I realized it was covered with her breakfast. I had been so preoccupied, that I had been with her for 20 minutes and not even noticed. Sigh.


11 Lucy Mitchell April 16, 2013 at 1:14 pm

When I read what the artist was doing, I thought oh, for goodness sake, what next? (A bit like when I saw the Avene facial water atomiser) but this was so moving. She was just so vulnerable! I was crying about a minute in. (And that water really does make my skin feel softer!)


12 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:56 am

Hah! I love your comment, Lucy. I totally roll my eyes at obnoxious art exhibits. And I rolled my eyes on hearing about Avene facial water (but I love it too!).


13 Lena April 16, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Gabrielle, I don’t know where you find those beautiful videos, but this one especially touched my heart pretty deep. You can feel their relationship, sense the energy.. I have to share this! Thank you!


14 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:57 am

So glad you’re sharing it. It’s such a story!


15 Carter Higgins April 16, 2013 at 3:10 pm

I had to go be quiet and alone for a few minutes after reading and watching this. So beautiful, and so stuck now in my heart and brain.


16 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:58 am

Oh, Carter. I feel the same way. I was so moved by this.


17 Megan M. April 16, 2013 at 3:38 pm

She is so beautiful. And so vulnerable. I think people really want to feel seen, and how can you not feel like she really sees you? And Jemima Kirke – love her.


18 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:58 am

I think you nailed it, Megan. It’s all about vulnerability.


19 Carly April 16, 2013 at 4:42 pm

I cried when I first saw that video! Their story is so romantic.


20 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 2:59 am

So romantic! I was surprised to realize the video was dated 2010. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen this story before.


21 Rebecca April 16, 2013 at 4:54 pm

I cried when she opened her eyes and saw Ulay! Thank you for sharing this with us! The fact that she was able to keep her composure for the next person shows how strong of a woman she is! Beautiful.


22 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 3:00 am

Totally. Can you imagine just moving on to the next person in line?


23 Maria B April 16, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Love this so much.


24 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 3:00 am

Thanks, Maria.


25 Silvey April 16, 2013 at 6:07 pm

I saw this on Cup of Jo a few weeks ago (is that where you saw it?) – it’s so moving!


26 Design Mom April 17, 2013 at 3:01 am

Uh oh. Does this mean I have to admit that I’m behind on some of my favorite blogs? : ) I actually saw this on Swiss Miss, but I’m not surprised to hear it was on Cup of Jo. She’s a total romantic!


27 Fiona April 17, 2013 at 7:58 am

ok. wow. That “meeting” was awesome. In the sense it inspires awe.
I saw her being interviewed by Charlie Rose recently, what I find incredible about the piece (The Artist is Present ) is that it was 3 years ago now, and yet every time I see it referenced I discover some new aspect, some new story – it is like the creative process it started will never end.


28 tere April 17, 2013 at 8:50 am

I’ve been around this idea of eye contact for a while, this video is an awesome complement! I keep thinking that it’s such an important matter to teach our kids nowadays, when communication is easy and fast with tech, but so unpersonal, they could miss so many things, so many great people if we don’t show them how to engage with the moment they are living. We should certainly start with our example, and be with our five senses where we are.


29 Ann April 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm

I saw this in New York. It was so amazing. I would have cried or laughed right away I think. This clip made me cry too.


30 Jen April 17, 2013 at 8:07 pm

bless this blog (and its designer!) for posting art like this for all to enjoy. just beautiful.


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