ISSN: 1477965X
First published in 2003
3 issues per volume
Volume 12 Issue 2-3
Cover Date: December 2014
Empathy beyond the human: Interactivity and kinetic art in the context of a global crisis
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Authors:  Quanta Gauld 
DOI: 10.1386/tear.12.2-3.389_1

interactivity,kinetic art,contemporary art,ecology,empathic consciousness,interconnectivity

This article explores the use of interactive and kinetic technologies in contemporary art practice as a means by which artists engage with conditions of social and ecological crisis. In a context in which the perpetual exploitation of human and natural resources threatens the sustainability of the planet and all earthy life, the language of interactivity provides perspective into the interconnectivity of organisms and the interdependence of biological, social, economic and political systems. The interactive, kinetic work affords a distilled set of relationships and movements that rely on connection and participation and, as such, serve as simple and relatable models of complex and interrelated systems. By engendering a sense of fragile suspension between sustainability and collapse – a felt experience of the present ecological crisis – the artists discussed incite affective responses through their works that are argued to be distinctly empathic in nature. Contemporary environmental theory provides insight into a shifting relationship between human and ‘nature’ that dissolves the previously instated binary in favour of an empathic consciousness, at the core of which is a recognition of the interdependence of living organisms. Art historical insight of interactivity as a means of production reveals a notable link between interactive art, destruction and trauma. The affective response engendered in contemporary works that grapple with concepts of transience and mortality relies on the very human knowledge of the body as a relatable site of experience, particularly pain and trauma. The idea of empathy as prefigured by violence and loss is particularly resonant in relation to contemporary ecological trauma. Works by artists including Rebecca Horn, Theo Jansen, Natalie Jeremijenko, Alan Rath, Lygia Clark, Alexandra Karakashian and Robert Krishner are discussed in terms of interactivity and kineticism as prompting empathic engagement in the context of environmental entropy.
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