World's biggest eye contact experiment peers into Downtown Phoenix

Slow down and take a minute to just look at someone. Not a glance, not a stare, but actually take the time to look into the eyes of another human being. 

It's awkward — we know. But you can do just that in the World's Biggest Eye Contact Experiment on Thursday in downtown Phoenix at Civic Space Park. 

The Liberators International, which was founded in Australia, has organized this global event to show that there is love and humanity beyond basic differences.

Surprise resident Michelle Kampmeier will be a gazer at the event. A gazer's job requires the person to keep eye contact with others throughout the stare-down.  

"When I read more about it, I knew I had to be a part of it," Kampmeier said. "Helping recreate human connection sounds amazing, and eye contact is powerful in that way. Personally, I could use the eye contact with strangers as a way of getting outside my own comfort zone, so there's no better way to do that than to be a part of this event."

She said she wants the event to allow people to come away from it with an experience they will never forget. 

"Hopefully they'll leave with the desire to want to reconnect with other people and spread the kindness they experience through eye gazing," Kampmeier said. "It's so powerful to connect with strangers like that, so I hope they'll want to bring it to their normal lives."

The Liberators International has worked with over 100 cities around the world looking to host their own event on Thursday. Downtown Phoenix joins 24 other cities in the U.S. participating in the event. In total, there will be 143 cities conducting the experiment within the same day. 

In a press release from The Liberators International, the group stated that each city will record their experience on video and then submit footage to its headquarters to edit their actions into a global compilation video. This global event asks citizens to volunteer and be a part of a change they hope to make. 

Biology junior Leslie Kelly said she would attend the event if it was happening in Tempe. 

"People should maybe not stare at their phones all the time," she said. "It might be a little awkward. I've seen the videos like that, they're pretty interesting."

Phoenix resident and lead organizer of the event Cynthia Djengue has been working the last two weeks to put together the event. She was inspired by the featured video and reached out to The Liberators International to see how she could run her own event. 

"I knew I could gather a team quickly and we’ve had a good response of over 500 RSVPs and 3,500 invitations and shares," Djengue said. "I am not the only one moved by the possibility of connection."

Civic Space Park is the right location for the experiment according to Djengue because Downtown Phoenix doesn’t receive enough love.

"Phoenix has this feel of independence and isolation to it," she said. "I also am hoping that those who ride the buses and train, the homeless and downtown employees can walk over and feel a bit of the energy we produce from this event. Again, it’s an experiment in love and humanity. Whoever needs it should be drawn. We are providing the space for that."

She said she is guilty of not making much eye contact with people either, which has made the event even more significant to her.

"(The event) simply means our community is hungry for consciousness and increased humanity," Djengue said. "If I can help a few people experience unconditional love on Thursday, it will feel like an accomplishment."

The event will take place in downtown Phoenix on Thursday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. 

Related Links:

Event brings downtown Phoenix community together

Culture Undiscovered: Creating New Communities in Civic Space Park


Reach the reporter at rsantist@asu.edu or follow @ryanerica18 on Twitter.

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