Radical Empathy: A Manifesto for the 21st Century

9781616895150Taney Roniger at The Brooklyn Rail:

Art as transformative encounter: in just about every field of art discourse, much is made of this exalted claim. And for good reason. For what is a genuine aesthetic experience if not an arousal from ordinary consciousness and a jolt into elsewhere—a mode of awareness more vivid, more perceptive, more intensely alive, resonating in a world suddenly laden with meaning? And yet, for all the talk of art and transcendence, how often do we really have this experience? How many times have we come away from a work of art having not just been moved but actuallyaltered, so that life afterward was, however subtly and indescribably, different from before?

If we’re honest, those occasions have likely been few—but perhaps through no fault of the works we engage. Their creators, after all, know nothing about us, and even if they did, has it ever been their job to speak to us personally? The inner life being a resolutely private affair, what moves one artist to make a painting may mean absolutely nothing to anyone else.

This perennial problem of the rift between artist and audience is what laid the seeds for Odyssey Works, both the title of this wonderfully original and deeply affecting book and the name of the interdisciplinary performance group whose work it presents. The group—made up of writers, painters, actors, dancers, and artists from a number of other disciplines—creates experimental performances with a most unusual premise. Its explicit goal is simple enough: to create works that will have the most powerful possible impact on the audience.

more here.