COMFORT XXL - THE COMFORTING MACHINE
"What would you say to sombody who is very dear to you and is in distress or very sad. You don't know why and the only way to comfort him or her is through the camera?" is the question Jennifer Baumeister asked around 400 people.
She has recorded men, women and children with diverse origins and life styles, old and young speaking their own comforting words. In the original machine he clips are accessible through the machine, which looks like a slot machine or a cash point. The audience is able to press a button, selecting a woman, man or child and a randomly chosen clip is shown. The user can repeat this procedure indefinitely.
Comfort XxL is not only a machine that comforts people, it is also supposed to show how different people comfort in individual ways, the range of 'comforting styles' people have. The experiences and character of the comforter are revealed in every comforting word they say.
Nowadays there are machines for everything. Why shouldn't there be a comforting machine, where everybody can get their private portion of comfort?! Anonymous and stress free like taking money out of a cash machine! Comfort XxL doesn't only give the audience a glimpse into the emotional world of strangers, yet it confronts every user with the topic "comfort". Apparently it makes a lot of people think about their own idea of comfort.
Jennifer Baumeister began working on the Comfort XxL machine in January 2004. Interviewing a wide range of people including; other artists, social workers, employees of Berlin's public transport system,clerics, a therapist, alcoholics, students, a Karate instructor, a cook, a manager, school pupils, children, homeless people and a vox pop of passers-by to create the diversity represented by the 'talking heads' which appear on screen offering the viewer comfort. Once the building of the machine was complete Baumeister approached over sixty different institutions with a view to having them house the machine on their premises for a limited amount of time which resulted in arrangements being made with seven organisations. As a result the 'Comfort XxL' travelled around Berlin between August and October of 2004. Thereafter the artist visited Pécs (H) and created a new version of the machine, with another 100 Hungarian comfort clips which toured around Hungary and Slovakia (supported by the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the foreign affairs office of the Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the Lenau Haus).
Link to the documentation of the development of Comfort XXL (8.22min)
Link to German documentary of the Berlin Tour (5:29 min)
RBB TV news about Comfort XXL (German)
The need to travel further and the addition of 2 further languages (Irish and English) led Jennifer Baumeister to create a new version of the machine:
COMFORT XXL INTERNATIONAL
It looks like a public telephone with a flat screen monitor, a receiver and a dial. The user dials a number to get to the chosen comforter (for example: a German child, an Irish man, an English woman, etc.). The individual videos (at least 100 in every language) will be played randomly. The sound will be audible through the receiver. Comfort is usually a personal matter - here it becomes public.
Comfort XxL International is not merely meant to be a machine that comforts people. Moreover it shall confront the user with the theme comfort. On the one hand it will show different people comfort in individual ways and the range of 'comforting styles' people have. On the other hand it will show the similarities between people who are usually in conflict with one another and give an inside view of the personality of individuals you would or could usually not have been in contant with. The experiences and character of each individual person is revealed in every comforting word they say. Apparently it makes a lot of people think about their own idea of comfort.
VIDEO EXAMPLES (To activate the video links CLICK ON THE X)
Many thanks to everybody who helped me realizing this project- especially to Guido Beissert for the outstanding programming!