The Comforting Machine

image This has nothing to do with hoaxes, but I thought it was interesting, so I'm posting about it anyway. Also, it reminded me of the Compliment Machine, which I posted about just a few days ago.

I received an email from Jennifer Baumeister, who tells me that she's an artist from Berlin working on a project called Comfort XxL, the comforting machine. Here's a description of it:
The comforting machine is an art project by the German artist Jennifer Baumeister. She asks people from different origins, age and gender to say comforting words into her camera. Selected clips are accessible through the machine, which looks like an 80s gambling machine. 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.
Jennifer's website has some examples of clips viewable on the comforting machine. Jennifer is currently in England collecting comforting clips. She's next going to be in Belfast, from the 9th till the 18th of August 2007. So if you live in Belfast and want to say a few comforting words, check out where she's going to be.

I think I'm, in general, a pretty bad comforter. My usual tactic is to express puzzlement at why the person is so upset, and then I try to analyze the situation logically. However, I don't think logical analysis is what people seeking comfort are typically looking for.

Art Psychology

Posted on Wed Aug 01, 2007


Bad Alex! The correct response to someone being upset is to say 'you poor baby! It's all someone else's fault' then offer them a great big hug. Being logical just gets you whacked round the back of the head with whatever is lying near by, and them storming off in a huff.

I know all this because I'm the one that usually needs comforting, (and ends up whacking people over the back of the head with my handbag)

You know, if I had this, the compliment machine, and a few extra little toys, I wouldn't need a boyfriend at all.
Posted by Nona  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  06:29 AM
yeah, I'm not much of a comforter, either, Alex. I'm more of a tattered, dog-stinky, musty old quilt, best left in the trunk of your car for emergencies. My brother's more of a throw pillow, and my sister is one of small neck pillows filled with beans or whatever that you can microwave for some dull heat. yawn
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  08:22 AM
I also with the bad comforting. My preferred style is to sit at a wary distance and pat the person's arm/shoulder, and saying "there, there," while hoping they get over it soon. crying scares me.
Posted by katherine  on  Fri Aug 03, 2007  at  03:18 AM
No, you've got to just jump into it, say what you feel. No one is going to fault you for being a poor comforter (?) I guess you have to really feel it, though, to avoid being stiff or awkward. I had this ex-boss I would have to coach in appropriate comforting/condolences reactions. Like, tell your wife this, buy this guy a card, yes, you have to go to that funeral. It must be some gene that some men lack.
Posted by Lina  on  Sat Aug 04, 2007  at  12:38 PM
I just finished SELF MADE MAN and she discussed that issue and came to the conclusion that while there may be some leaning against comforting others in men, it is mostly cultural. She points out that men need to comfort and be comforted but lack the training to do so. While on active duty I had to learn practical psychology in dealing with those working for me, comforting was part of that. So, Alex, Hairy, just start thinking of it as another way to solve the problem. Just remember that the problem isn't what it first appears. You have to deal with the symptoms first, then deal with any underlying issues later. One step at a time.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Aug 04, 2007  at  01:54 PM
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