I dreamt in heaven, Press Release, November 3 at
To the left and to the right, fields whirred past: farm crops raised to columns by the red motorcycle’s motion. Fast. 50. 60. 80. 100. mph. Beyond the speed limit. Good Person. In contrast to who? To whom? Who were the bad people. Matter of fact, he said this. You’re a good person. To herself? Did that matter? Good Person To Herself. Good Person. Its earthy, grounding weight. A fern. A spruce. Nothing Deciduous about this Good Person.
I dreamt in Heaven explores the ethics and aesthetics of empathy (both through language, action and cinematic editing, music and sound design) via following a short voyeuristic and fantastical motorcycle ride of a child in late summer through suburbia. The short film is paired with sculpture, performance and text works (an email correspondence between an anonymous neuroscientist and the artist on the cultural, neuro, evolutionary and developmental implications of empathy).
In 2006, Obama delivers a speech to a children’s organization. And then later, in 2008, to his church. “What we have in this country is not a federal deficit, but what we have,” fatherly lips pressed in millisecond meditation, “is an empathy deficit.” At the podium.
In 2010, writer Jeremy Rifkin explains how at age 8 a flushed child realizes that life is fragile and that the body, a quiet armor, decays. The encounter with mortality is met with empathy: your plight is shared & love is a practice, like the everyday, for the everyday*. Empathy does not exist in heaven, but requires the hellish mortality contracts of earth to form.
The characters in the film ask: “Can I have some empathy on my fries? How about some empathy to pay my rent?”* Mocking empathy, teasing mortality, for fun, for an afternoon, forever: are they angels? The young skateboarders, the seven archangels? In heaven?
Empathy is a recent word. Its etymology is a mix-up, the Greek (empatheia) meant obsession, intense emotional state, unbearable emotional engagement, positive or negative, hatred even. You pay attention if you feel, is the closest and most generous interpretation with the contemporary political and PR fluid-ease with the term: empathize.
*quote from a text message from Anna Maria Pinaka, October 18, 2017.
*script from Dan Bodan, June 2017.