Hungry? Celebrate flesh and food in art through ‘Man Vs. Gut’

Whatever your background and however crazy your interests, there’s something we all have in common. That creeping, growling, overwhelming sensation you get around lunchtime that the whole office can hear? Yeah, it’s tough to be hungry.

It’s the phenomenon we obsess and embarrass ourselves over – the audible manifestation of what happens when body takes over mind and a voice emerges that you just can’t control. This phenomenon is finally being celebrated by creative duo Bompas & Parr in their latest project, Man Vs. Gut.

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Earlier this year, Bompas & Parr opened an invitation for a culinary experiment, set to result in a visual symphony through a “cacophony of stomach squelches”, they explain.

Representing the truth of the human body

The project took ten people and deprived them of food for a whole day – so their stomachs would be as vocal as possible. Then, the participants were offered their culinary dish of choice at the end of the day – the picks varying from mac and cheese to fish-finger sandwiches. And the whole was documented, both visually and audibly, to celebrate and cherish the emotional rollercoaster of flesh, food and their varying fantasies.

Before being able to dig into their fantasy food, the participants’ bellies were monitored and their sound effects recorded. The stomach growls were then analyzed and reworked in order to create the impressive soundtrack for the film.

The visual style of Man Vs. Gut aims to be visceral through its realism. The color palette reflects the various shades of nude of its participants, vital in representing the “truth of the human body”.

Bompas & Parr aim for a “crude and unromantic” representation of hunger – and yet end up with a pastel-hued and somehow incredibly soothing photo and video project.

Past the aesthetic pleasure for the viewer, the project is hugely fascinated by the emotional implications of hunger and satisfaction. Man Vs. Gut pinpoints moments of anticipation, joy, and relief around the coveted first bite.

The history of the stomach growl

Ever thorough, Bompas & Parr also delve into the historical and scientific relics of their interest. Indeed, the voice we imagine for our bellies around lunchtime finds its roots in real scientific theory – as primitive societies apparently believed in “the stomach and digestive tract as having a voice, the anus a second, and sometimes an argumentative mouth.”

We associate stomach growls with hunger as the sounds grow louder when the stomach and intestines are empty, and the organs’ contents cannot muffle the noise. The noises can also be caused by gas and air making their way into the digestive system. This interference would then be what causes gurgling, vibrating and rumbling alongside the growling.

On their expectations and results of the project, 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.”

While the career of Bompas & Parr began with their expertise in jelly-making, the pair are now taking on ever more multi-sensory experiences and creating visceral, exciting design projects celebrating what we could be tempted to be ashamed of.

Feast your eyes on more photos from Man Vs. Gut below:

All photos by Addie Chinn.

Edited version published on Konbini

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