When working with empathy, it is easy to only view the world for its lack of its empathy. Time begins to be spent looking at individuals that reside on polar sides of experience. People are shaved down to project a lack of vulnerability and/or desperation of needs unmet. I have been standing on the outside observing and research social interactions without being mindful of their affects on my own state.Read More
In our Western American culture, tragedy on a large scale is a rare occurrence. Though, recently, it seems we must watch more and more special press conferences for attacks on normal life, our lives remain innocent in their protection. This milder way of living has blinded our sense of empathy. It is easier to become upset because of a small-scale tragedy like a school shooting. This comes from violence of that kind being an every blue moon happening. Our press conferences set us apart from the rest f world. How is this?
Places like Syria do not have press conferences to comfort the people. There are too many acts of severe violence and loss to have these public displays of empathy. Imagine that world. Place yourself in a life that death is more normal than paying bills. Where your government, neighbors, and your family see so much aggravation of the right to live that a press conference might switch from our cause to the celebration that something good happened. The shifts in cultural norms brought from war are heart breaking. Waking in the morning to check your limbs and home for something to have disappeared in the night are normal. Class wars, “fitting in” with the crowd, the belief of having a dream and working towards it, and the ability to analyze your life and find emptiness is being single or needing a new career or more time to meditate are non existent. The primary focus for every day is to survive. These people live more like the animals we have forgotten we are.
Reproduction, finding food, and searching for shelter are the daily life for humans living in the wild built by war and national poverty and unrest. Where we worry that our waiting room experience might be darkened by the news station’s coverage of the loss of 10, these peoples celebrate that they only walked past 20 dead today to fetch water from the filthy river. Would we survive? Would we be able to forget our false sense of the life requirement to comfort? Can we fathom this kind of animalistic fight or flight?
We are so separated from our animal selves and from the world around that is crying out in desperation. What right do we have to throw a press conference? Especially, when you realize that under our protective social lottery winnings for being born or living in places that do not rely on animal instincts to survive daily, that there are some very near to us living in that vain.
It is easy to place the world’s despair outside our minds, a chosen ignorance. But, how are we able to allow our communities on mile radios’ continue to support loss, death, violence, desperate need, and pain to continue. We drive on not making eye contact with someone begging for money on the side of the road. We forget quickly how some are living in abuse and emotional unrest. We allow races to be segregated and dismissed. We treat women with in equal life rights. Children go hungry as we forget to grab our doggie bags as we eave the restaurant. We incarcerate or institutionalize those we find unsightly.
Everywhere you look there are false social systems and ways of reacting to one another that separate us. We are all humans. We would all fall under the oppression of war and violence. We would not see these class wars and social norms if our world lived where tragedy happened so often that press conferences become impossibly inconvenient. Why must we continue on and forget we are all of one species?
In the effort to continue that Socio-Emotional Revolution, a friend and I, stood in someone’s shows for a while. How is it to be treated as the “other”? The only way to find out is to place your self in their everyday situations.
It is a unique experience when you pulled your car up to a red light and are greeted by a cry for help written on cardboard. It is not “normal” to society. Normal society is in the car. When you look around at the people populated the cars at that red light, you can see something in all of their expressions regarding that cardboard sign. Everyone looks with concern enough to read what the sign says, but then they put up walls. They act in self-preservation. If they don’t continue to look, roll up their window, and only look straight ahead (begging for the light to turn green and release the from this uncomfortable interaction). No matter these people’s status within this “normal” society, they recognize they are different and above that cardboard sign.
Even if their car is barely running, emitting a loud continuous squeak from a belt on its last leg. Even if they are wearing a uniform for a job that does not pay them enough to really get by. Even if they can feel their stomach start its violent rumbles, desperately trying to encourage that a meal be had. No matter how close they are to being on that sidewalk, holding that cardboard sign, people will keep themselves separate from that person.
Those that are seemingly furthest away from that cardboard sign are more likely to become aggressive and offended by the signs presence. They have had their life experience diluted to the point were any real experience or break in habit becomes a threat. Being confronted with the fact that not everyone is lucky enough to have life operate so easily makes them subconsciously realize they could fall. And it is a far fall back down to working hard to barely getting by.
I have stood in that spot, holding that sign. It is a hard place to be. There are some that live on all the levels of social standings. They will smile, they might even give a little. Through my experiment, I saw more faces mocking, looking in disdain, and trying very hard to ignore. I even began to feel that I should feel ashamed of myself. I should step back from my confrontation position forcing them to look at another and try to understand their position.
I realized, it is not the line of cars paused at the light that stand tall in judgment. It is that lone soul holding the cardboard sign that is strong. They understand that human interaction is important. They stand their as a thorn in society’s comfort. In the cars, people don’t interact with each other. We only make small passing judgments on each other. “Look at that car, they must have money.” “Look at that clunker, they must need another job.” When one of us stands outside the cars and looks us n the eye, our fantasy world walls are broken. Struggle, life experience, need, and connection flood into our cars.
We are forced to feel something.
What is not understood on either side, is you are holding that sign. We are all in the same world. Outside of the car or otherwise, we are all here existing. If you climb too high to get away from the “bottom”, the fall back down will be painful and harder to handle. If you are desperately clawing to try and get away from the lower status than yours, your similarities with shine with painful power. Those holding the sign with have to realize that if they make it into a car and out of that life, they will still find trouble.
I would like to introduce the world to a new website.
The purpose of IveBeenThatGirl.com is to give the women and girls of the world a safe space to leave behind in words those instances in life that have shaped them as people. The forum can also become a place for women and girls around the world to not just connect because of their similar stories, but to also encourage each other.
All of this is not just in hopes of changing the world. This is also following along a new path for my work. I have decided to expand my visual language from solely multimedia and non-objective pieces. I would like to dive deeper into the world of empathy. How would this best be explored? I plan to use knowledge of mirror neurons, the vagus nerve, and empathy to my advantage.
Mirror neurons allow us to place ourselves in someone else's shoes. The vagus nerve sends the emotional evoked from that transfer of experience throughout the entire body. Empathy is a physical connection between people. What is the difference between sympathy and empathy?
Bene Brown explains this difference far more eloquently than I.
To begin with this new body of works, I started with an experiment.
I have placed posters of myself around Tyler. They have adjectives scrolled across the eyes. This acts as a mask allowing for future portraits to still maintain some sense of privacy without completely blocking out any chance for connection with the viewer. These words have been chosen to try to accomplish many things. Some bluntly ask for help, "struggling" and "concerned". The others are a little more innocent; "I'm not mad", "content", and "optimistic". Every poster carries pull-tabs at the bottom that read, "respond to me", with a contact number. The responses have been very interesting.
I am learning from the reactions, so far, that some people are aware of their surroundings. Some are willing to interact. And, some assumptions of this projects purpose are far from what I ever assumed. What is to be done with all of this?
Two things will result from this initial experiment.
The first is that I am preparing the community around me to be on the look out for more images like the posters. I feel that introducing the public to the idea of seeing and responding to faces will aid in what I hope can be the end game. The goal, as of right now, for this new body of work is to encourage connection using empathy as a tool across all groups of people.
I hope that the connection between viewer and portrait can become a catalyst for each individuals life. Perhaps, like IveBeenThatGirl.com, this can encourage people of different backgrounds, races, social standings, economic class, etc. can find common traits and experiences with each other. Perhaps, more giving and less judgement relationships can grow from these interactions with the posters and pieces.
The exhibition applications will be able to tie this idea with the memorial aspects of my previous works. Examples of that will be written about in the time to come. For now I aim to collect photographs of those seen to existence on the edges of "normal" society. I am shining a light on some of the people of this world most misunderstood and over looked.
From their lives may we possibly better know our own.
There have been times that I have been asked about the products I use. What is best? What works? Which do you prefer?
I thought I might share some of my all time favorite products.
1. DAP Patch n Paint
This is the best for filling holes from the nail gun, bad spots on the wood, cracks, gaps, and anything else unsightly. I use this on everything before I do a final sanding and painting.
2. Loctite Two Part Epoxy Glue
This stuff is amazing. For heavy duty or large scale gluing jobs, this is the only way to go. I have literally glued two rocks permrnantly together.
3. Tecnu Poison Ivy Wash
This wash is a must have for working in the outdoors. Last spring I contracted poison ivy so intense I had to take antibiotics. Tecnu helps make sure that will never happen again.
Each of these products should be trusted to the fullest. There are certain moments that you cannot buy the cheaper version, spend the money for these. They won't let you down.
I visited the Houston Center for Contemporary Craft yesterday. What an interesting space for artists. Check it out here: www.crafthouston.org
They have a few small exhibitions happening at the moment. One of these I'd like to discuss.
The Collective Cover Project is a striking exhibition at first. Daily used objects covered in white canvas fabric with bold printed numbers. It peaks your attention, but it doesn't follow through.
Check out the website for more information (www.collectivecover.com). For now, let's discuss my issue with the artist'a use of QR codes.
There were several cylinder shaped objects wrapped in the fabric adorned with the non-descript numbers leaving only the QR code to give hint to the forms context and story. Unfortunately, I could not discover these stories because I do not have the technology. The gallery space did not involve QR code readers for borrowing during the exhibition, though the room next door had two iPads mounted to the wall. This means, I could not fully understand, explore, or appreciate this exhibition.
What about the others that do not QR capabilities? Are artists that use this new technology mindful that they are separating their work from those less equipped? What could have been a better decision path for the exploration of the canvas covered items?
QR codes have been gaining more use in the art world. Is this smart? What is your opinion?