Man Vs. Gut
At the nexus of humanity and hunger
London, 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 their most desired culinary dishes and captured the sounds that emanated from their bellies as they satiated their ultimate craving.
The relationship between the individual, their belly and chosen food was documented in a short film, capturing a cacophony of stomach squelches. 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.
Man Vs. Gut documented how our stomachs seek to exert peak control over our minds, with profound emotional and physical reactions. Binaural sounds were monitored, analysed and reworked into a soundtrack to make the film more visceral.
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:
"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)."
Photography by Bompas & Parr and Addie Chinn.