Man Vs Gut
Exploring the relationship between human and hunger - London, July 2017
Man Vs Gut - exploring the relationship between human and hunger, July 2017
Bompas & Parr invited ten people to fast for an entire day so that their stomach noises were most vociferous and their food fantasies intense, the studio then created the desired culinary dishes that were most wanted by each person at the peak of their hungered state. The relationship between the individual, their belly and chosen food was documented to create a cacophony of stomach squelches resulting in the visual symphony of ‘Man Vs. Gut’.
As humans, we can all relate to the sensations of hunger and the embarrassment that naturally overwhelms us when loud unexpected rumbles are heard from the belly. Bompas & Parr has documented what our stomachs desire the most when appetite levels peak and now our guts can have control over our food choice, as well as our emotional and physical reactions.
Binaural sound effects from the ten participating bellies were monitored, analysed and reworked into a soundtrack to make the film more visceral and capture the key moments during the making of ‘Man Vs. Gut’.
The abstract film is also accompanied by close-up portraits, taken by photographer Addie Chinn, of bare bellies and the accompanying mouths eating what their stomach craved. The project captures the sensations of pleasure when each participant took their first bite, how their hands guided food into their mouth and what emotions were felt during those moments of anticipation, joy and relief.
Backgrounds were chosen to closely match the subjects skin tone to give the series a really fleshy feel. The very plain and graphic stylistic approach ensured that the variety in skin types, textures, age, and hair levels was showcased in a crude and unromantic way. This has been enhanced further with different hues of nude accommodating the sets, making the whole series visually range from beige to brown, enhancing the truth of the human body.
In the past, primitive societies thought of the stomach and digestive tract as having a voice, the anus a second, and sometimes an argumentative mouth. Dr Simon HC Anderson, of Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital notes that stomach sounds can be an indicator of what is going on in the dark interior of any individual’s alimentary canal.
Dr Simon HC Anderson, Guy's and St. Thomas' Hospital, said: "We've seen a lot of patients with this symptom – the correct medical term for it is ‘Borborygmia’, which is thought to reflect contractions (peristalsis) of the upper gastrointestinal tract, principally the stomach. As the stomach has a bigger capacity to contain air, it hence produces more sound compared to the smaller diameter intestines, which also have less vigorous contractions. Borborygmias can also occur due to aerophagia (unconscious swallowing of air - which can be due to subconscious thoughts about food or psychological problems like anxiety)."
Growling is most commonly associated with hunger because it is typically louder when the stomach and intestines are empty and the organs’ contents cannot muffle the noise. Gas and air also make their way into the digestive system, these pockets are often the reason for gurgling noises and can produce the vibrations which accompany the rumbling sounds.
Harry Parr, Director of Bompas & Parr, said: “It was fascinating to see how eager everyone was to take part and have their hungry bare bellies exposed. We made an array of food on the day of filming, from fish finger sandwiches, Chinese dumplings to spaghetti with tomato sauce. It was an ear opening experience to hear so much about the emotional relationship everyone has with their own stomach.”
Photography by Bompas & Parr and Addie Chinn.