Digital Empathy by Julianne Swartz

Visiting the High Line, which is in Manhattan’s West Side area was a real treat (especially after reading the National Geographic article Miracle Above Manhattan in the March 2011 issue). This beautifully, well designed park brings serenity even to the busiest, fast-moving city dweller. People were having lunch, talking to friends, or pulling out cameras to capture a photo (an infinite amount of possibilities). One can easily spend a day and evening roaming around the High Line alone. It also reminded me of why people flock to New York. The overall design of the High Line is elegant yet captures the city’s personality in such a way where you know the High Line could only exist in Manhattan.

With a visit to the High Line so early in the trip, it was a thrill that the first physical cue that indicated I was in a completely different environment was installation art by Julianne Swartz. Entering the High Line in the middle, one must take an elevator to the park. Currently, Swartz’s work, Digital Empathy, is a sound piece that involves poems, personal letters, and song lyrics recited by computer-generated voices. At first, walking in the elevator, you hear these intimate messages but the monotone and seemingly cold voice with no inflection makes the message sound eerie and unsettling. After reading the work’s description, I felt compelled to go up and down the High Line looking for the signage to hear a voice and listen. Digital Empathy is a sobering reminder that communication delivered in an unfamiliar way makes us listen carefully and fastidiously. Yet, isn’t that strange, that something unemotional stops and makes our ears and the rest of our senses vigilant? Are the sounds of our own voices not enough? Swartz certainly made me wonder.

Here’s hoping she showcases work in San Francisco. I would definitely see one of her shows and love to talk to her. Julianne Swartz, if you’re reading this, thanks for reminding me to stop, listen, be curious, and stay human.

Advertisements

Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s