Art & Society #ClubNights

Encounter: look a stranger in the eyes during # Club Night 1 in the AHK Culture Club

Have we forgotten how to be in a room full of strangers? #Team2 from the Art & Society programme gave visitors to the Culture Club a push in the right direction with an evening full of encounters, unexpected turns and an algorithm that couples strangers with each other.

Upon arrival in the Culture Club, visitors are given a folded-up sheet of paper and a mysterious message: ‘fill in this road map and then the evening will unfold by itself’. There are yes–no questions like ‘Do you have enough good friends?’ and ‘Do you know the Duke of Tokyo?’. The map leads to a number and that is fed into the matching algorithm. Then it’s a matter of waiting.

An unexpected date with instructions
The room slowly fills up and people laugh, eat and drink. Then a bell rings. Two names appear on a screen that are matched with each other by the algorithm; two strangers who are coupled with each other on the basis of the number on their road map and go on a date. A date with instructions. ‘Look each other deep in the eyes and get to know each other,’ the piece of paper reads, which the couple are given. Then comes the assignment to follow one of the coloured threads that are stretched crisscross along the ceiling of the room. Each colour leads a couple to a different type of encounter.

The bell rings one more time and soon after the strangers disperse with each other to every corner of the Culture Club. Two people dance with each other behind a curtain. A couple opposite bake an apple pie. In an inflatable ball pit, strangers are confronted with dilemmas which they read out from rolled-up notes that are hidden between the plastic balls. Next to them, a couple with their backs to each other draw their dreams on a hanging, ring-shaped canvas.

With emphasis on thinking, doing or the conversation
Unique encounters, therefore, and that was precisely the idea of the evening says participant in the Art & Society programme Laura Bolscher. ‘We work in the Culture Club and would like to meet people here. However, because it’s been such a long time since we were in a room full of strangers, we may have lost the hang of it somewhat. That is why we devised a dating system to match strangers with each other using a machine. There are seven types of dates where the emphasis is on thinking, doing or having a conversation, so each date is a different experience.

After the dates, the couples carry on talking with a drink. Vice-president of the AHK Executive Board Annet Lekkerkerker noticed that the ice was quickly broken, but each date also had its own effect. ‘I was just on a date during which I had to wear a sleep mask,’ she says. ‘That had a very different effect than I thought; instead of paying more attention to what my date was saying, the darkness actually created a barrier. We took off the mask and you immediately notice how important facial expressions are; it makes a conversation much more personal. In this way, each date that I had this evening provided a different insight’.

Art & Society programme
It fits the concept of the Culture Club, where different perspectives and disciplines come together, says Lekkerkerker. And that begins with the participants in the Art & Society programme. ‘This evening symbolises their time in the Culture Club. During the programme, they get to know each other and each other’s work. However, that also influences their own work. They don’t know yet what the fruits of their work will look like by the end of the programme, in the same way I didn’t know in advance what would come of my dates this evening.’

In the coming period, there will be a Club Night in the AHK Culture Club every month. Would you like to take part? Then check the agenda for dates and tickets.