Frustration and Empathy

All this business of art about Christchurch, and the questions of empathy and how to encounter and deal with sensitive topics, and then sometimes I just can’t help but see the situation someone is in and burn with some emotionality. Sure, it’s MY emotionality, and it could be wrong or not really accurate and true to the situation had I experienced it myself, but that seems beside the point. Isn’t it just trivial to say we only see things directly through our own eyes? Eyes are one of many features we have in common with each other. Our human commonalities empower us, allow us glimpses of reason and universality amidst the vulgar and difficult subjectivity. This sort of thing is what binds us as humans – and to some lesser degree as animals -that allows us to reach a hand out to each other, to be angered and outspoken on each other’s behalfs – both in error and in genuine righteousness.

When I stop feeling like this, automatically and passionately – as I don’t, for example, automatically cringe at seeing a pig killed and dismembered any more, thanks to growing up on a farm – I feel desensitised and dehumanised.

It is really difficult listening to a classmate who wants to deal with popularised neuroscience in her art – not scientific stuff beyond her grasp at all – describe all the hostility she is getting from the worst post-modernist authorities at school. In the first instance they knock her confidence whenever she makes a specific scientific claim – “Well, what do *you* know about neuroscience?” Well, I quizzed her a little, and she seems to grasp some basics pretty well, not that I have anything more than basics – but art about the limbic system and neurotransmitters, that sounds pretty cool and edifying. Not, of course, that I know shit about neuroscience, but I do certainly know a little – I know the tiniest appendages of neuroscience and it seems like rich territory for an artist. When push comes to shove they just come right out and attack the idea that there’s any objectivity involved in science, or more often they furtively imply that the method can’t actually produce reliable facts. Not that they know the slightest shit about philosophy of science, mind, with the possible-but-unlikely-exception of having absorbed some Thomas Kuhn. Not that they give a shit they don’t know anything, so filled they are with hubris and arrogance. This classmate was in tears yesterday, and it’s true all manner of other issues could be at play in her life, maybe she’s just not making art that is that good, but ultimately and either way it can’t help her that she’s in such an un-nurturing and anti-intellectual artistic environment.

It’s fucking ridiculous to see an art school going out of its way to impede a few bright young people from being artistic, and for purely political reasons.

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