Empathy

2017

 

Being emotionally sensitive, I can often see things from the standpoint of others.

 

When I travelled to South Korea alone, I lived in an Airbnb apartment with the host’s mother who could only speak Korean. We talked little as this old lady had a poor hearing and wasn’t able to use any translation app. When I went back home one night, I saw her playing Japanese cards alone and asked with gesture if I could play with her. She agreed happily. Then we just played quietly, and both of us felt happy although we couldn't understand what the other said.

I began to think then if there are ways of communication among people that transcend language. If emotion is one, how is it transmitted without any conversation?

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- Art Event -

I would like to start with the simplest form of empathy - the empathy between two individuals - to explore how this kind of social communication works on people. What is the emotional link between unfamiliar individuals after having a shared experience? How will it work on people’s mind?

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poster

Therefore, I designed an experiment by inviting 12 people to participate in a certain experience. These 12 volunteer were strangers for each other and I gathered them through online posting. They were randomly divided into six groups, 2 persons each. The six groups were each asked to enter a room in turn, and the two persons sat side by side.

 
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screenshots of video

I arranged hidden cameras behind of video players in advance. The video clips shown to participants are selected and edited by myself ,which were about different types of emotion, such as happiness and sorrow, fear and relaxation, and anger and love, and on different topics including discussions of the public and the private, freedom and abstinence, mainstream and subcultures, and issues of feminist values and public opinions.

 
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screenshots of  experiment and interview

Rules:

  • All the participants may not talk in order to remain unfamiliar with each other.

  • After sitting down, they had 30 seconds to make eye-contact, and then watched the video together.

  • They were not allowed to talk, leave or fast-forward or turn off the video.

  • After 17 minutes of watching, the two persons looked at each other again for 30 seconds, then left the room and received my monologue interview separately.

Empathy, 2017

questions in interview:

  • How did your emotions and feelings change during the whole process? How about the other person?


  • Is there any difference between your eye contacts before and after watching the video?


  • Which clip did you feel was the most memorable and which aroused your strongest feeling? How did you feel?

  • How was the emotional connection between you and the other person before the experiment?


  • Say something about your feeling after the experiment (open answers).

In the end, I admitted that the whole process was secretly shot. After deleting the videos of those who were reluctant to have their images shown, we watched again most of the videos of the interviews with those who allowed me to use their videos. Then we had some group discussions.

I received positive involvement and feedback in this art experiment. Participants gained very unique experiences. Some of them messaged me a week later saying that this activity had changed the way he communicated with people.

 

For me, this was an exploration of communication beyond language. Empathy is a special form of interpersonal communication that is unique to human. It is also the one of the bases of why an artwork can resonate with the audience’s emotions. Going forward, I may extend this experiment to more people in a more forceful form, in order to study the romantic feature empathy can bring.

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