The photography project displayed here is partly an experiment involving “taste.” Participants were given two distinctly traditional Japanese delicacies and their facial expressions were photographed.
As this is an on going project, I am not able to disclose what each participant ate. Each participant was given a spoonful of Taste A and Taste B, both traditional Japanese food, still widely popular in Japan and vegetarian friendly. Participants tasted the items individually without any audience and waited in separate rooms. Information on what they ate was shared only after the photo shoot.
“Taste” is the driving force behind every art form. It’s influence dictate personal aesthetics, cultures and history. Each participant in this experiment displayed anticipation and anxiety, before tasting. Once the “taste” was absorbed and the flavor was analyzed, their expressions displayed, surprise, disgust and for some, happiness.
Today, we live in constant sensory overload and the value of experiencing the unknown seems to be diluted. Knowledge is a click away and experiences are shared instantly with videos worldwide. I was compelled to stage this experiment to re-evaluate the significance of acquiring a new taste through experiencing the unknown.
I particularly like the ones where the timing is dead-on. This is the brief moment a participant is not able to make the judgment call on whether the introduced taste is acceptable or not. At this point, every participant shows a facial expression that can be described in Japanese as - 間抜け "manuke" , which is a common term to call a dunce. However, the kanji characters used represent, “missing moment” or “missing space” which seems to be a more accurate description of this situation.
During this moment, one displays the most neutral expression where attachment to the world seems to be severed. All existence is within a “No Man’s Land” of emotional impulses, as if a vital connection or the bridge to their conscience is 抜けてる、or missing. Such photograph captures the suspended moment where the psyche is at float, shorted from tapping into to their existing knowledge base of life experiences.
In contrast to the emotion filled expressions before and after the tasting, I sense a level of serenity in the 間抜け manuke expressions. My belief was that neutrality never existed in the human realm. I thought true neutrality only existed in physical conditions such as air pressure and gravity. Yet, in some of these photos, the moment of absolute neutrality seems to be captured.
If neutralizing your existence and freeing yourself spiritually is a path to enlightenment, maybe this brief detachment is a micro enlightenment. Just like how some say sneezing is 1/10 of an orgasm.