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Opening Reception


November 17, 2018, 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Smack Mellon
92 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201 United States
(718) 834-8761

In an increasingly polarized political climate, empathy has proven to be a challenging emotion to conjure for many Americans. Both the public and its leaders seem to show little interest in understanding the viewpoints and experiences of others across the divide. The disruptive rhetoric of the current administration, and of media pundits, has only exacerbated the disjuncture in this country.

This exhibition features artists who reveal a capacity for empathy, a willingness to reflect on another’s point of view or to understand those whose backgrounds differ from their own. Through photography, video, sculpture, drawing, embroidery, installation, performance, and virtual reality, the artists engage in projects that employ deep listening, compassion, care ethics, and other empathic skills. Bundith Phunsombatlert collaborated with seniors at Rosetta Gatson Neighborhood Senior Center through a series of workshops, inviting senior residents to share their stories while teaching them the cyanotype photographic printing process. All of the participants were Caribbean immigrants and several of their migration narratives were collected into an artist book that is being published by the artist. Appalled by news reports of immigrant children being separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, Michael Kelly Williams was moved to create a new work for the exhibition, which addresses the immigrant crisis in this country.

Acknowledging and commemorating those who have experienced trauma, two artists, Iván Sikic and Andrea Arroyo, have each created a body of work that contends with the issue of violence against women. Sikic’s Amor Humano is a response to femicide cases in his homeland of Peru, creating a performance recorded in video and photography that was inspired by the sounds, rituals, and aesthetics of Huayno culture, a genre of music from the Andean region of Peru and Bolivia. Arroyo’s installation Flor de Tierra: Homage to the Women of Juarez II honors the hundreds of women who have been murdered or have disappeared in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico since 1993. Her drawings on paper, Tyvek, and acetate intervene in the space while interacting with the natural light entering the gallery through the windows. In both artists’ projects, they have included names of those who have perished, in an effort to recognize them as individuals rather than nameless victims.

Empathy can be described as the psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another, and several artists in the exhibition have created work that places the viewer in this position, encouraging them to see another’s perspective. Zac Hacmon’s Gateway is a menacing sculptural intervention at the front of the gallery. Visitors must decide to enter the space by passing through the structure or walking around it. The interactive piece is a reconstruction of the Kalandia checkpoint, located near Jerusalem, between the Kalandia refugee camp and two Palestinian towns, Ramallah and ar-Ram. It is used by the Israeli military to control Palestinian access to Israel. As a structure, Gateway conveys the heavy physicality of border crossings, while relocating the checkpoint passage in a space with no border to cross. As an immersive piece of architecture, it nonetheless shifts meaning from forum to prison, and from watching to being watched.