The Empathy Experiment


The Empathy Experiment is an installation piece that encourages viewers to think about and even inhabit the lives of others, if only for a little while. At this divisive time in world history, empathy provides a path for people to come together, no matter what their personal views may be. The Empathy Experiment is a simple rolling clothes rack holding four ponchos with pockets that are identical except for the fabrics the garments are made of: burlap, glitter mesh, wool for a suit and an unusual fabric used traditionally in upholstery. Visitors are encouraged to try on the ponchos, wear them for as long as they like, even walk around the venue or sit down and imagine themselves inhabiting someone else’s life. The beauty of the Empathy Experiment is that each fabric suggests different emotions or social norms to different people. As the artist, I am supplying a suggestion but the viewer or wearer of the garments is in control of their own experiences. Short stories and objects can be placed in the pockets to add to the narrative. The words and objects can be changed based on the space the installation is held. The Empathy Experiment was shown in April 2017 at ArtFields in South Carolina.