Exercises in Empathy

25 Jul 2015 – 5 Sep 2015

Site Gallery

Sheffield, United Kingdom


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Exercises in Empathy explores how the body senses objects and responds to concepts and ideas through touch and movement.


Inner and outer worlds blur into each other as acts of repetition, mirroring and meditation are used to navigate and feel the world around us. The exhibition is comprised of film, photographs, sculpture and archival materials by Daria Martin, Ian Whittlesea and Rudolf von Laban.

Daria Martin’s film Sensorium Tests (2012) examines mirror-touch synaesthesia, a condition where people feel touch on their own body when they witness touch on another person. The film opens up questions about how images reflect us, how as viewers we relate to artworks and how images become active in and outside of us.

Ian Whittlesea presents an array of materials relating to Swiss artist and Bauhaus teacher Johannes Itten (1888-1967) and his immersion in Mazdaznan, a mystic cult of breathing and exercise which swept through Europe from the early twentieth century. A single sculpture by Whittlesea, A Breathing Bulb (2014), sits alongside these archival examples. The lone bulb repeatedly fades from intense brightness: the slow pulse of the bulb is equivalent to a single mantra, the light strengthening in the same way the abdomen rises during inhalation and then dimming as the abdomen would fall during exhalation.

Rudolf von Laban (1879-1958) was a dancer and choreographer, whose inquiries into movement theory signalled a new era in dance scholarship and education. He used geometrical models as tools to map physical movement and think into space. Five of his handmade choreutic educational models, constructed from a variety of materials including wood, string and metal, will be displayed in the gallery, with films and photographs of Laban demonstrating their use.

Curator-led tour: Saturday 25 July, 1pm
Book your free place

Throughout August: a series of artist talks responding to the educational models of Rudolf von Laban. Booking opens shortly.


In conversation: 1 September 2015, 6pm
Jamie Ward, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at University of Sussex, discusses mirror-touch synaesthesia. 
Book your free place

Movement-based workshops: 4/5 September 2015
Ian Whittlesea and a local yoga teacher share the Egyptian Posture series, made popular in the 19th century by the Mazdazdan religious movement. The process will be documented, laying the foundation for a new body of work by the artist: consent will be required from participants to be photographed. Full details will be available shortly, to register interest email info@sitegallery.org


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