Timelesshugs : Remove time, purpose, fear and goal.
A simple encounter, two strangers hugging timelessly in a public / semi-public space. Created with Nataska Roublov (as the unit MNR) from August 2015 to July 2016. The action consisted of hugging another for longest time as possible, aiming for more than twenty minutes. It lasted up to one and a half hours. We invited participants; friends, strangers from an online dating site, creating both a network, and a random encounter on the spot. The action was usually not announced to the public - we would insert the action without giving any explanation to the audience. We liked it to be viewed as accidental, another chance encounter.
Can two strangers trust each other, let one another in their personal space? What do participants feel and think during this experience? As observers we question the relationship between the action and the space, and what is happening during this time. In our society, where the social code is precise and essential, how do people react
to the unexpected?
After working on Slapping, Nataska Roblov and I (as MNR), realized that this violence in a public space, in the form of slapping, lasting only a few seconds, did not concern other people. Most of the time, people were indifferent. When it was longer than three slaps, it became a theatrical / mechanical act, that no one believed was real.
I proposed the opposite act, hugging, for as long as possible, in a public or semi-public space.
I thought, people today are more uncomfortable and fearful about intimacy and trust than about violence. In today’s Occidental society, everyone chooses, according to their desire, with whom one shares an intimacy. This was not the case a hundred years ago. It is a development of human rights, but it may also have eroded a durability in our relationships to another and the family structure.
In a society where people choose according to their desire, hugging is something much more controversial with a stranger. It seems easier to have sex with strangers for many people than to just hug. Hugging seems to be corny, and sex is more radical, cool and feeds one's desire. But is it really this way? Hugging, as a form of contemplation shared with another for duration of time, is very satisfying. We knew this project would be difficult and this is why we decided to proceed with it. The “Free hugs” movement in the early 2000's were an interesting, yet superficial and paradoxical, movement that symbolized the Occidental capitalistic structure. As the hugging was brief, it was less challenging and gave less time to process the experience. The word “ timeless” means that when one hugs over a certain time, time becomes an abstract notion. We used both meanings - the length of time and the quality of experience. After a certain time hugging, the body chemistry changes. The longer the time, the more things happen to the participants.
It does not follow the tendency of much of today’s art: “Bad is cool, mockery is art, art is ugly, twisting banality is art, invisibility is the way”, nor is it “anti-demonstration”. It is usually aesthetic - the documents are often beautifully photographed, and action takes place in mostly aesthetic places with people around.
Sometimes it looks as if it is a demonstration.
Timeless hugs is a full and deep experience for the participants, where questions of doubt and trust (that leads to questions) arises from participants and the public. It mainly starts with an instinctive reaction rather than rational thinking.
All were documented with photographs and recorded interviews.