Empathy Academy Cornell What Is Left Is Felt

The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University presents Empathy Academy: What is left is felt, on view from May 11 to July 30, 2017.

The exhibition Empathy Academy: Social Practice and the Problem of Objects was organized in conjunction with a Spring 2017 Cornell course (ART 3799) of the same name. During the semester, the exhibition displayed works from the Johnson’s collection by Ernesto Neto and Rirkrit Tiravanija along with a special installation by Matthew “Levee” Chavez.

In response, the students have conceived a new participatory installation, What is left is felt, as their culminating project. Developed through a semester-long series of small public interventions and reflections on the social life of objects in the context of the museum, a collection of red items will be presented as a crowd-sourced still life for the remainder of the exhibition.

The display will be an ongoing invitation to Johnson Museum visitors to directly participate by contributing their own red objects which may resonate with personal meaning but no longer serve a purpose in their everyday life.

“The installation investigates our contemporary attachment to the things—whether purchased, made, or displayed,” said Stephanie Owens, visiting assistant professor of art. “In a world with endless opportunity to consume and accumulate objects, leading to the many challenges society faces with landfills and oceans choked with plastic debris, this installation asks us to consider the moral dimension of consumption, collection, and nostalgia.”

The initial objects hanging in the space were acquired anonymously through a series of collection boxes distributed across campus in student dormitories and halls, where an object could be donated, tagged, and categorized. After the exhibition ends, all objects in good condition will be gathered and donated to local charities.

Student creators of What is left is felt include Lois Nguyen (Landscape Architecture, ’20), Kelechukwu Mpamaugo (Art, ’20), Adler Faulkner (Art/Engineering ’17), Christina Welzer (Art, ’19), Curtis Ho (Art, ’20), Pamela Chueh (Architecture, ’17), and Saiyara Fahmi (Art/Biology, ’17).