The 2016 CCA Biennial focus is on the cultural production of empathy. The upcoming biennial will address the ways in which feeling is form and explore how the objects, buildings, clothing, machines, languages, and images we construct are shaped by our intentional or implicit emotional, interdependent relationship to others. Whether by framing a connection that already exists or by providing the condition for new connections, what we create can either merely extend our own personal desires, goals, and directives, or can alternatively function as a bridge between who I am and who you are so that aesthetic experiences are interdependent, collaboratively generated and inherently reciprocal.
Ideas of interdependent form in art have been addressed recently in theories of relational and participatory practices, but theories of art's generation out of an intentional acknowledgement of the other—whether viewer, audience, citizenry, crowd, or globe—is often understood as rhetorical anticipation rather than actual co-authorship. It is the structure of inter-subjective experience that we hope to understand through a variety of ways of thinking about form as the political, aesthetic, and societal distinctions between “me” and “we.”
Looked at from a wide perspective, ideas and experiences of empathy are expressed in many disciplines and forms, including many that would not immediately or characteristically be understood as empathetic: affordances in architecture and design, artificial intelligence in computation, mirror neurons in developmental psychology, network applications in information studies, responsive environments in media, synthetic biology in science, are but the few that come to mind.
Rather than take on a philosophical abstraction in exploring this topic and its interface with cultural and artistic practice, we seek ideas of empathy in action: empathy as solution, remedy, strategy, structure, and screen.
How does one build an empathetic structure? Can empathy be programmed? Can it be taught or learned? Who extends an empathetic view to others? Are there designs that encourage empathetic exchange rather than discourage it? Does communication over distances allow us to witness people and events in far away places with greater intimacy, or place it at a safe, meditated distance? Is empathy a liberating or confining cultural dynamic? Is it essential to human existence of merely one of many emotions we have toward each other and the planet? What, if any, is the role of empathy in subjectively-driven practices in art, literature, music, and performance?
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