Gut Feels is an interactive installation work exploring the link between gut health and mental health in the unlikeliest of places. Located in a bathroom as part of Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne-based artist Mari Adams invites users to download the “Gut Feels” app on their phones to interact with her work; creating personalised emojis of their own feelings. Inherently expressing their gut feels through completion, the emoji is sent to a display screen for public viewing; where people can sit around in a bar, have a drink, and contemplate the silent, loud and bubbling emotions of anonymous contemplations.

Predominantly working in past video animations, illustrations and motion graphics, Mari enjoys storytelling, experimenting, and collaborating with film-makers, musicians, writers and other artists. Intended to facilitate outward expression of people’s internal states, Gut Feels celebrates listening to your core and investigates the global and widespread use of emoji in contemporary communications. Discussing her project in detail, Mari Adams chats the process of Gut Feels and what inspired her to materialise her own feelings.

Where did the concept for Gut Feels originate?

Gut Feels stems from my interest in (and personal experience of) the link between the gut and the brain. I wanted to create a tool for expressing inner states – mental and tummy alike. Emoji seemed like the perfect language for Gut Feels because they communicate feelings and speak universally.

How has Gut Feels allowed you to explore what’s important to you?

Gut Feels is important to me on a personal level because my mood is closely affected by my tummy. Science shows this is a widely experienced phenomenon and I think it would be good if we talked about it more.

Why use Emojis as a communicator in an interactive installation? 

In my experience, strangers don’t normally jump at an opportunity to share their inner states. Emoji are a sneaky way of getting people to talk about their feelings.

Opening up conversations on the links between gut health and mental health, has their been a turning point in your own life that made you stop and think, “I need to listen to my body” or to “trust my intuition”?

A turning point for me was when I developed epilepsy at age 18. Having seizures feels like losing that connection between your body and your brain. I had to learn to listen to my inner state, in particular my stress levels, to manage my condition.

“There’s the awesome experience of finding people out there who share our feelings, a factor of being able to connect with so many other humans on the Internet.”

With technology constantly changing, do you feel the way we communicate our feelings online has implications on our own physical and mental health?

Definitely. Personally, I get both positive and negative feelings from online communications. There’s the awesome experience of finding people out there who share our feelings, a factor of being able to connect with so many other humans on the Internet. There’s also the negative experience of so easily comparing yourself with all those other humans.

Was there a meaning behind using a toilet cubicle as the location for people to experience Gut Feels?

In my mind, the toilet cubicle is a contemplative space. There’s also the obvious link to the theme of gut health.

From a designer’s point of view, how do you feel looking at someone play or interact with what you’ve created, and make it into their own piece of art?

Interesting question! Gut Feels hasn’t really been interacted/played with yet, aside from close friends and family beta testing the app component. To be honest, I’m a bit nervous about seeing how people will engage with the work.

What kind of work was put into the backend and were there any challenges in creating the Gut Feels app?

Creating the Gut Feels app was a huge challenge for me as I’ve never coded before. Luckily I was able to collaborate on the backend with my friend and Unity wizard, Max Piantoni. It’s been an extremely rewarding process and I’m eager to keep improving the app.

Currently completing your masters, do you think it’s important that what you’re learning as a media maker comes hand-in-hand with concepts you’re passionate about? 

In my experience, it’s much easier to motivate yourself to make when you’re interested in what you’re making.

What kind of stories do you want Gut Feels to tell, share or communicate?

I want Gut Feels to get people talking about the pains and joys of having a mind and being in a body.

Thanks so much everyone who came along to Gut Feels last night. What a feast of emoji! 90 new feels were born ✨

A video posted by Mari Frith Adams (@marifrith) on