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Ruth Burke: Mapping Empathy in Istanbul

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As part of her International Experience requirement, MFA candidate Ruth Burke is spending summer 2016 in residence at Halka Art Project, a non-profit, independent art initiative in Istanbul, Turkey. In her solo exhibition Mapping Empathy (Bir Empati Haritası), Ruth explores the questions: can empathy be recorded? And how does it transcend spoken and written language? 

Can empathy be recorded? How does it transcend spoken and written language? This body of work is collaborative and intuitive. It initially aimed to elevate women’s voices in a patriarchal culture. As the project progressed, it moved away from being about the voice and towards a less measurable, mappable aspect of connection. As a non-Turkish speaker, the artist was verbally censored from the participants words during interviews (interviews were translated into English afterwards). The artist was prompted to listen for something other than spoken language in these intimate conversations. She chose to listen to the empathy being communicated. From this, she generated abstract drawings mapping” the empathy between interviewer and interviewee. Those drawings were then translated into fiber sculptures. If the interviewee was able, they collaborated on their own fiber sculpture with the artist. 

A public performance accompanied the exhibition. During an hour long meditative performance, two individuals clutch each other on top of a sculpture. They are both veiled, donning delicate lace that covers their faces. Their embrace may be read as holding each other up, kissing or simply partaking in a physical act of empathy atop a hyper-masculinized sculpture of a bull.

Mapping Empathy // Bir Empati Haritası
28 – 30 June, 2016
Halka Art Projects, Istanbul, Turkey