Caroline Achaintre (FR), Armin Alian (IR), BLESS (AT, DE), Ulla von Brandenburg (DE), Susanne Bürner (DE), Berta Fischer (DE), Wiktor Gutt / Waldemar Raniszewski (PL), Sofia Hultén (DE), Annette Kelm (DE), Jochen Lempert (DE), Alexandra Leykauf (DE), Sonya Schönberger (DE), Anika Schwarzlose (DE), Daniel Steegmann Mangrané (ES/BR), Vera von Lehndorff / Holger Trülzsch (DE)
Taking biology as a starting point, the works in the exhibition explore mimetic processes that are based on the understanding of and the empathizing with a counterpart. They present techniques of assimilation to a given context; they address the hiding and disappearance of animals and humans; and they deceive our perception through trompe-l’œil.
It is generally believed that these mechanisms of adaptation could be advantageous for the organism in question. However, in his essay Mimicry and Legendary Psychasthenia the sociologist Roger Caillois argues that contrary to popular belief, animals do not adapt to their environment for their own benefit, but rather out of a mythological desire to dissolve into the world. This relationship between the useful purpose of becoming another and the emancipation from that very purpose is put up for discussion in the works of the exhibition. After all, genuine empathy is only viable in the absence of purpose. The ability to make this distinction provides the key to developing one’s own identity.
The psychoanalyst Gohar Homayounpour states in Against Empath”ism”: “The keyword for genuine empathy lies within “separateness”, within the essential capacity to recognize difference. Otherwise, I am just getting to know you in order to prey upon you, so that I can eat you. For my insatiable narcissism needs to be fed over and over again.”
The works in the exhibition Mimicry—Empathy negotiate the formation of identities through experimental mimicry in various ways. Visitors are invited to discover images of their selves in the mirror of the exhibition.
Mimicry—Empathy is a project that can take on different forms according to the places where it is presented. It was first shown in 2018 at the Lajevardi Foundation in Tehran as an exhibition accompanied by screenings, workshops and talks. It was followed in 2020 by an eponymous book. In other places the project will develop new forms.
Tour Panorama | Friche la Belle de mai, 41 rue Jobin, 13003 Marseille
image credit: Sofia Hultén, Grey Area, 2001. Video, 9 min. boucle. Courtesy Sofia Hultén and Daniel Marzona, Berlin