Benchmark, Aspen Art Museum

Restless Empathy

For Restless Empathy, the Aspen Art Museum invited eight artists—Allora & Calzadilla, Pawel Althamer, Marc Bijl, Lara Favaretto, Geof Oppenheimer, Lars Ø. Ramberg, Frances Stark, and Mark Wallinger—to create new projects or rethink existing bodies of work throughout the museum and the town of Aspen. While representing a wide range of practices and frames of reference, these artists share a capacity for creating and exploring empathy in unexpected ways. Bringing together artists who approach the idea of the poetic, either through material, language, or gesture, Restless Empathy examines the complex process of entering the interior world of another—whether artist, viewer, or object—and seeking to make a connection.

The notion of the viewer “completing” a work of art usually involves a demand placed upon the audience. Recently, with artworks often grouped under the term Relational Aesthetics, the viewer becomes instrumentalized within the work itself. Rather than use people as a medium, however, the artists in Restless Empathy make markedly generous gestures toward the public, creating a space for unexpected experience through work characterized by a deep sincerity and moments of intimate surprise.

Restlessness is having an uneasy, unsettled heart, mind, or physical body. Empathy is understanding the emotions of another. To be empathetic is to wander amongst the feelings of others and alternately reflect upon one’s own emotions. Restless empathy allows commonalities and differences among people to be highlighted through an interaction with situations or objects. Much like restlessness is difficult to control, empathy cannot be dictated. These open-ended interactions are the goal of the Restless Empathy exhibition. They are non-biased, non-prescribed, non-mandatory—yet filled with opportunity.

Furthering the Aspen Art Museum’s commitment to presenting art in unexpected places and removing barriers to contemporary art—recently cemented by its decision to admit all visitors free of charge—Restless Empathy challenges expectations of permanence and monumentality in art that addresses the public. In no way intended to be an exhibition of “public art” in any thematic sense, Restless Empathy broadly explores relationships between aesthetics, space, locality, and modes of address.

The exhibition is jointly organized by Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, AAM Director and Chief Curator, and Matthew Thompson, AAM Associate Curator, and will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated hardbound catalogue (published by the Aspen Art Press and available in August 2010) including texts by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) New York’s Harvey S. Shipley Associate Curator of Drawings, Christian Rattemeyer, and Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago Director of Education Hamza Walker.

archive Aspen Art Museum