When you’re constantly creating and publishing art, you are bound to get things wrong now and again.
In my case, the weak spot seems to be around titling large projects. I talked about the mistake of calling a series Swollen in this video, and recently I got feedback that Crime Against Nature was “unfortunately titled.” While I disagree with the critique, I can still see what the critic meant. Though the title is intended to subvert the legal definition the term “crime against nature,” some people might take it at face value and be turned off.
Knowing that titles can spell trouble, I’m pretty nervous about naming my next body of work. I’ve been calling it Cover / Flaunt since 2013, when I came up with the idea for the show after reading Kenji Yoshino’s excellent book Covering. But as I started actually making the work this year, I stopped being so sure of it. After brainstorming with my partner, asking some artist friends, and mulling it over for a few days, I finally came up with Empathetic Magic.
It’s a play on sympathetic magic, which is something you probably use in your day-to-day without even knowing it. It’s in the attractively posed photo of yourself that you use for your profile on social media. It’s in the photos of fit people you post on the fridge to encourage healthy eating or in the vision boards you make to help you focus on the way you want your life to look. For some, it’s even in the image of the Pope or the Dalai Lama that they hang in their homes, hoping that the holiness of these leaders suffuses them via the photo.
Sympathetic magic is at work anytime you use a representation of something in order to bring that thing into your life. Empathetic Magic, then, is made up of images that are meant to inspire curiosity and a desire to dig deeper into why different people do different things. It’s a recognition that true empathy is not pretending that you know what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes, but admitting that you have no idea and then listening to them.
For more about the series, go here!