Shani Ha: EmpathiCity

Shani Ha intervenes on different cities to make them more empathic through a sculptural layer of softness between the toughness of the city and her exposed citizens.

Shani Ha, <i>EmpathiCity</i>
EmpathiCity is a series of ephemeral experimental interventions in public spaces by French artist Shani Ha.
She installs “comfort extensions” in the streets to encourage a positive re-appropriations of our cities hope offer a moment of pause to reconsider our social behavior.
Shani Ha, <i>EmpathiCity</i>
Shani Ha, EmpathiCity

Social studies show that modern cities are designed to be universal and increasingly predictable. The standardization of public spaces gives priority to safety and control, which leaves very little space for surprise, singularity or encounter. We become passive and immunized to the life of public spaces. This model of modern cities encourages an ego-centered development of individuals where empathy becomes optional. This lack of attention, awareness and sensitivity emphasize indifference and even fear of otherness, which makes cities unwelcoming and uncomfortable.

Empathicity is an experimental utopia of public spaces where empathy and generosity invades the streets to provide a comfortable pause to passer-by. The comfort extensions offer a possibility for people to contemplate the spectacle of everyday life and maybe reconnect with their own ability of empathy.

Shani Ha, <i>EmpathiCity</i>
Shani Ha, EmpathiCity

The sculptural interventions are inspired by spontaneous urban postures the artist identified in the streets when people stand still. These actions of leaning on architectural surfaces can be interpreted as “active ways to live the city and affirm our presence by appropriating portions of public spaces. It’s almost a form of protest, a social statement” explains the artist.

The comfort extensions accompany these postures to encourage momentary active annexation of public spaces in resistance to normative design that tend to sceneries our behavior and bland our reactivity. The Empathicity invasion appears on the streets as sculptural and caring graffiti that can be activated by people. Shani Ha literally bring softness to transform hostile architectural elements into welcoming relatable sculptures.

The comfort extensions offer a symbolic incitation to soften-up and experiment a positive, active and caring way to occupy shared spaces. When exhibited in gallery spaces, the comfort extensions accompany the relationship between the body and the architecture. The interactive elements seem to extend the architecture and reach out to people. The sculptural pieces can be both contemplative and experimental.

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