In Encounters, we talk to one another a LOT. We speak in English, French, Italian, Swahili, Lingali, Spanish; we raz one another about our accents and colloquialisms, we ask hard questions, we challenge one another, we share our secrets. Then, we go a step deeper, review the video and transcriptions of our own conversations, and replay and investigate them for our own hidden meanings, assumptions, patterns.
But we also explore our silences. And sometimes, this is a much more difficult thing to investigate, because how do you examine the ‘absence’ of something? When there are words to recover, we have tangible material to work with. This may point to why, when we review footage together, it takes a few passes to recognize the person in the room who is NOT talking- who is listening, and reserving their opinion. Or, perhaps who is not listening at all, and has, in a way, extracted themselves from the situation.
There we try to explore deeply the ‘meaning’ or ‘reasons’ for the silence- Is someone feeling shut down or shut out, are they angry, or suspicious, or tired, or reserved; are they simply interested in the other positions being held in the room? And, how do the others in the room respond to this silence?
Our society seems to be formed for, and revere, extraverts. In general, I think we are a bit afraid of silences- you can see this in our many attempts or over-attempts to “fill it”. And so, there is another way that Encounters investigates silences- by facing it head on, basking in it, exploring the esoteric qualities and possibilities of shared silence. We spend long periods of time standing in front of one another looking into our partners’ eyes- not speaking, not attempting to ‘communicate anything’ or read their mind- just gazing.
…try it. With your partner, with your friend, with yourself in the mirror. It kind of changes everything.
For more on eye-contact, check this out: http://www.iflscience.com/brain/you-can-alter-your-mind-staring-someones-eyes-10-minutes