Text: 'The Joys and Sorrow of Empathy' by Eagleman, D. The Brain - the story of you (2016). Canongate Books, pp. 157 - 163.
Session led by Luisa.
Why does it matter to care? Is it for the joy of empathy or for the sorrow of empathy? Do we care because of empathy? What is empathy?
'To empathize with another person is to literally feel their pain' (p.158)
We talked about the difference between empathy and sympathy. Luisa said she understood sympathy as wanting to be kind and nice to others (compassion) where as empathy was a longer process that involved the wish to understand the pain of others ('to be in someone else's shoes').
We also talked about the phrase 'looking after oneself'. It was interesting that many of us felt a sense of guilt and even failure to 'look after oneself'. In the current situation of Covid-19 pandemic, it is something that we have been hearing repeatedly - to be kinder to oneself. But we recognised that this was actually quite a difficult thing to do. I suggested to the group to listen to the podcast 'How to Fail' where the philosopher Alain de Botton speaks to Elizabeth Day about embracing vulnerability in the age of Coronavirus.
Can we empathise with materials?
How is empathy connected with creative activities such as painting, drawing, sculpting or dancing?
Can our group art activity be seen as a form of care?
A new art activity 'Empathetic Grid' was decided at the end of the session. This activity involves each participant creating a 4 x 4 grid (of any size) then filling in 4 spaces before passing on to the next participant. By the time the drawing reaches the fifth person, all of the grids would be filled. The fifths person then responds to the images/texts/drawings that fill the grids in whatever way she likes to create a final artwork.
Resulting from the conversation we had on care as value and thoughts on gifts, exchange and reciprocity (PIRG session 20 April 2020), Luisa suggested the group to conduct a small 'exchange' art project. The project asked each participant to create an original piece of artwork that would then continue to be worked on as it got passed on (via email) to the other group members. The finished artworks resemble a palimpsest of sorts, capturing the unique interpretation of each of the participants.
Below are images of the 'before' and 'after' of the artworks:
Luisa - Jane - Yvonne - Noriko - Yonat - Luisa
Noriko - Yvonne - Jane - Yonat - Luisa - Noriko
Jane - Luisa - Yonat - Yvonne - Noriko - Jane
Yonat - Noriko - Luisa - Jane - Yvonne - Yonat
Yvonne - Yonat - Noriko - Luisa - Jane - Yvonne
In the last PIRG session (23 March 2020), the group discussed broadly around the topic of 'care', which Lisa Baraitser describes as 'the ardous temporal practice of maintaining ongoing relations with others and the world' (Baraitser, 2017, p.4). There was one particular paragraph that Yonat had chosen where Baraitser comments on care as 'often assumed to be a value' (ibid., p.14). I was curious to reflect further on this notion of 'care as value'. What kind of value are we talking about?
I introduced the text: 'Mothering, Co-muni-cation, and the Gifts of Language' by Genevieve Vaughan, in The Engima of Gift and Sacrifice, Edith Wyschogrod (ed.), New York: Fordham University Press, 2002, pp.91 - 113. I thought it would be interesting to reflect on what Vaughan talks about as 'unilateral gift giving' in relation to ideas of care as value.
Text: Lisa Baraitser (2017), Enduring Time, London: Bloomsbury Publishing, pp.14-15.
Session led by Yonat.
First Skype session due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Two paragraphs from Lisa Baraitser's book, Enduring Time, were chosen for this session. Jane started the conversation by questioning Baraitser's interpretation of Tronto's understanding of care as an action that goes ‘beyond the limits of the relational self to include forms of action not limited to human action…’. What did Baraitser mean by 'not limited to human action?' Isn't care primarily associated with human action? Yonat felt that both human and non-human can have access to agency (referencing concepts such as 'agential realism' that Karen Barad talks about).
According Baraitser, one of the actions that can be understood as care is 'maintenance'. Yonat created an additional list of actions that she felt could be considered as 'care': listen to, respond, response-ability, communicate, feed, support, protect, love. It makes reflect on Elizabeth Povinelli articulation of care as a 'small theatrical gesture'
'...an "object of knolwege" is no longer a resource, ground, matrix, object, material or instrument to be sued by humans as a means to an end. Rather an object of knowledge is an "active, meaning-generating axis of the appratus of bodily production"'. (Haraway, 1991, p.200)*.
Yonat's texts for the session included paragraphs from Barbara Bolt's 'Material Thinking and the Agency of Matter', in Studies in Material Thinking, Vol. 1, No. 1 (April, 2007), p.2 (www.materialthinking.org), Jackie Goode, ‘On Autoethnography’ (Chapter 3) in Jackie Goode (ed.) (2019), Clever Girls: Auotoethnograpies of Class, Gender and Ethnicity, New York, US: Palgrave Macmillan and Tim Ingold (2016), Lines: A Brief History, London and New York: Routledge.
* Donna Haraway (1991), Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature, London: Free Association Books.
At the beginning of December, PIRG met in Rawberry cafe, Winchester to reflect on what the group had achieved so far and to think about 'what next'? To mark the occasion I offered to create an artists' book. I asked everyone to choose a word/sentence/paragraph from Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space and bring it to the session so that we could form a conversation around it. PIRG started in 2013 as a loosely defined 'reading group' that explored the notion of phenomenology through Bachelard's book. I thought it would be a nice gesture to revisit the text as we reflected on the group's past, present and, hopefully, the future.
The finished book captures the conversations that took place that day. Nothing out of the ordinary happened. We carried on as we have always done, listening, commenting and sharing.
At the end of the session we came to a conclusion that we needed to continue to meet once a month, to use PIRG as a platform to keep developing and exchanging ideas 'slowly' in a gentle and caring environment, which has always been so unique about PIRG. We will explore new methodologies and entertain new research topics. But for now, it is good to know that PIRG will be starting a new chapter in the coming new year.
Below are images of the finished book.
posted by Noriko Suzuki-Bosco
PIRG's exhibition 'In Dialogue: Material Imagination', The Link Gallery, Winchester University, 2015
'In Dialogue: Material Imagination' was 'an exhibition exploring ideas around French Phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard's notions of material imagination, cultural complex and sublimation, through art works and written text. The exhibition attempted to extend the discussion of Bachelard's ideas and open them to a wider audience. Each of the seven artist-researchers incorporated works from diverse research areas to explore, interpret and expand Bachelard's ideas through the dialogue between material and theoretical practices.' From: The Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group poster, 2017.
PIRG preparation session for 'In Dialogue: Material Imagination' exhibition, The Link Gallery, Winchester University, 2015
'Sites of Conversation'
17 - 31 July 2017
Winchester Gallery, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton
Jane Bennett | Bevis Fenner | Yvonne Jones | Belinda Mitchell | Yonat Nitzan-Green | Noriko Suzuki-Bosco
'Sites of Conversation is an exhibition and symposium by the Phenomenology and Imagination Research Group (PIRG), exploring the notion of material practices and contexts as sites of expanded conversation. The works represent process, contingency and the unfolding dialogue between materials and phenomenological thinking, which expands the possibilities of what conversation can be and can become. In the light of these ideas, the exhibition and symposium center on works – and the wider practices and contexts that surround them – as ‘sites’, not only on and around which conversation can take place, but also as conversations in and amongst themselves.' Written by Bevis Fenner. (To read more please go to 'News & Feeds').