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On the Limits of Empathy Author(s): Juliet Koss Reviewed work(s): Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol.

On the Limits of Empathy Author(s): Juliet Koss Reviewed work(s):

Source: The Art Bulletin, Vol. 88, No. 1 (Mar., 2006), pp. 139-157 Published by: College Art Association

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On

the

Limits

Juliet Koss

of

Empathy

After

a century

A f t e r a century

has been

discourse.

rearing

Seemingly

of benign

neglect

and

its comforting

a kinder,

head

gentler

denigration,

in Anglophone

empathy

cultural

model

of

the aesthetic

response?compared

traction,

last

with

stringent

abstraction,

has

been

or

harsh

estrangement?it

to

an

unlikely

decade

range

of

subjects,

dizzying

linked

including

in

the

dis

the

art

of

Frank Gehry,

of film.1 The concept even

Finley

Frequendy

usually

projection.

Edward

Hopper

and Adolf

Menzel,

and

the

architecture

of

the Surrealist

the

project,

the entire

discipline

and

artist Karen

(Fig.

empathy

I).2

has also

by

of

recently

been

investigated,

Kruger

into"?that

explicidy

and

promoted,

conceptual

with

the performance

Barbara

artist

sympathy

conflated

or compassion,

and

to

signifies

More

a process

emotional

it can

refer

"feeling

Germany

psychological

the

concept

of

was de

specifically, the activity of

Einf?hlung?literally,

veloped

ping

in

fields

late-nineteenth-century

of philosophical

in

the

overlap

psychology,

aesthetics,

perceptual

optics,

bodied

and

art

and

architectural

to

an

image,

haptic

discussions

and

of

in

spectator.

its wake,

of

history

object,

optic,

the

Like

or

it described

identity

to

spatial

describe

Einf?hlung

active

perceptual

abstraction,

a

along

an

em

response

environment.

offered

a

experi

fo

distraction,

un

per

none

Simultaneously

rum

ence

and

for

of

abstract

the

individual

estrangement

borders?a

emotional.

potentially

disciplines,

comfortable

ceptual

and

destabilization

sensation

Promulgated

the viewer's

psychological,

at

in

once

a

physical,

range

of

of which

was

either

divergent

fates

in

each

discrete

one.

A

or

fully

gradual

formed,

loss

of

it underwent

interest

among

art historians

(such

as Heinrich

W?lfflin)

(such

of

the

as Theodor

concept

Lipps)

by Wilhelm

preceded

more

Worringer

1930s, Bertolt Brecht, but the concept

and

psychologists

in

forceful

1908

lingered

rejections

and,

for decades

in

the

within

the

discourse

of modern

architecture.

Beyond

offering

a

sequence

of

critical

history

etymological

of Einf?hlung

shifts

reveals

or

discursive

a fracturing

trends,

the

of

the disci

plines

with

at

the

the

turn

of

the

of

the

the

"return

last

visual

birth

century;

a

rejection

and

in both

resurgence

discourse

against

distancing

of

narrative,

emergence

recent

with

and

seem

of

to

intellectualism

to

abstraction;

of

cinema,

of

spectators

beauty,"

a

backlash

the

decades?a

poststructuralist

widespread

the

objects

of

em

opposi

from

and

the

the

transformations,

of

spectatorship

Like

pathy

tional

the

would

aesthetics

rigorous

the

themselves.

status

signal

recent

of

allegiances

appeal

discussion

tecture,

as

president

advocating

identity

also

of

lie

of

politics.3

in

The

concept's

contemporary

As

may

its interdisciplinary

it has

theater;

been

in

his

conservatism."

theoretical

orientation.

a

to art, archi as

spectatorship,

film,

and

discourse

to feel

applied

literature,

aesthetic

claiming

it has

the United

nation's

infused

States,

pain

and

Empathy

approach

political

with

the

one

next

appears

that

values

well

to

"compassionate

a

promise

constructive

emotional,

as much

as

rational,

understanding

and

allows

for

the

possibility

both

of

within

bridging

and

radically

different

subject

posi

tions,

graphic

across

historical

periods

o f a r t history,

of art history,

and

geo

Einf?hlung

Einf?hlung

zones.4 Within

the discipline

more

the

specifically

last

decade.5

Germany

effort

to

in

has

Attention

and

garnered

scholarly

and

in

grand

and

critical notice

late-nineteenth

in

 

to

its

emergence

its demise

in

the

ensuing

and

complicate

the

its

central

 

tenets,

and

practice

of modern

century

an

decades

reflects

broaden

question

the

nature

narrative

explore

of

vast

spectatorship.

modernism,

changes

Aesthetic

Empathy

The

initial

theoretical

statement concerning Einf?hlung was

made

in

1873

by

the

philosopher

treatise

(On

?ber

the Optical

das

optische Formgef?hl:

Sense

of Form: A

Robert

Ein

Vischer

in his

zur Aesthetik

Beitrag

Contribution

to Aesthet

ics).

Vischer

perceptual

object,

he

used

the

engagement

wrote,

term

with

to

a

describe

work

of

the

art.

viewer's

In

viewing

active

an

I entrust my

individual

life

to the

lifeless

form,

do with

another

living person.

Only

ostensibly

just

as

I.

do

I remain

.

the

same

merely

another,

although

to adapt

and

the

object

remains

attach myself

to

an

other.

it as one

hand

and

yet

I am

mysteriously

transplanted

and

I

seem

clasps

mag

ically

transformed

into

this

other.6

This

tion?a

both

reciprocal

solitary,

viewer

experience

one-on-one

and

object,

former

while

p s y c h o l o g i c a l ,

psychological,

animating

the process

of

exchange

and

transforma

experience?created,

as

it were,

destabilizing

the

the

latter.

Physical,

identity

emotional,

of Einf?hlung

placed

the

of

the

and

spectator

at

the

Devoid

f?hlung

center

of

of

aesthetic

spatial

first appeared

discourse.

connotations,

in print

in

the

1800

German

in the work

term

Ein

of Gott

fried

Herder,

a precursor;

whom

late-nineteenth-century

the

concept

more

generally

may

theorists

be

traced

cited

to

as

the

writings

evoked

of Aristode.7

the

writings

The

of

theme

Arthur

of

sympathy broadly

speaking

Schopenhauer

and

Jean

Jacques

Nietzsche,

Rousseau;

an

one

proximate

of

influence

was

Friedrich

the

philoso

acquaintance

Vischer's

Theodor

father,

Vischer.

pher

words

ther

of

Mitleid

aesthetics

Friedrich

or

Favoring

Nietzsche

terms

the

nei

nor

and Miterlebnis

empathy

over Einf?hlung,

sympathy

in

considered

spatial

discussed

the aesthetic

response

as it literally occurred

on

the

spectator's

merger

speech

resembles

Einf?hlung.

skin. Yet

his

the self

into

description

of

this

response

described

the

a

loss of

as

a

strongly

as

of

and

the work

of art that provoked individual

identity

that was

he wrote

also

that

is

led

"to

a

the

dissolution

the

aesthetic

In 1876,

of

activity

for example,

Gesamtkunstwerk

spectator

totally

new

for

the

Wagnerian

understanding

and

empathy

[Verstehen und Miterleben],

just

as

This content downloaded on Tue, 5 Feb 2013 17:34:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

.

140

ART

BULLETIN

MARCH

2006

VOLUME

LXXXVIII

NUMBER

1

1 4 0 ART BULLETIN MARCH 2006 VOLUME LXXXVIII NUMBER 1 1 B a r b

1 Barbara

1 B a r b a r a

Mary

though

his

volved

Boone

his

spirit

an

as

we

shall

Kruger,

Gallery,

senses

more

element

see.

U

empathie

peut

New

York)

changer

had

all

sensual."8

at

once

This

grown

aesthetic

of

Selbstent?usserung,

le monde,

Strasbourg,

or

more

spiritual

response

also

self-estrangement,

France,

and

in

Subsequently

Subsequently

dler,

dler, L i p p s , A u g u s t

Lipps, August

Einf?hlung

treated

developed

by

Schmarsow,

vision

and

such

and W?lfflin,

authors

the

experience

as Konrad

the discourse

of

space

Fie

of

in

bodily

flected

tific

from

fine

and

a

psychic

objects

terms.9

openness

viewers

or

to

the

the

Its

interdisciplinary

interdisciplinary

the

humanistic

nature

and

re

scien

"empathize

of

markings

particular

eye

within

into"

anything

to works

of

theorists

and

the

viewer's

relative

among

might

nonreferential

interests

perceiving

disciplines;

everyday

art,

according

researchers.

Placing

body,

body

morphize

with

Einf?hlung

described

and

the

and

Sigmund

work

a

of

notion

Freud.

art,

of

The

a range

including

projection

viewer,

of

a

relations

tendency

we

might

Vischer

between

to

now

wrote,

this

anthropo

associate

"uncon

sciously

soul?into

projects

the

its own

of

form

bodily

the

form?and

From

object.

with

this

this also

I derived

the

the

notion

that

I call

'Einf?hlung'"10

Pity,

sympathy,

and

compas

sion

all

appeared

within

the

discourse,

always

example,

(or

consistendy)

that

"compassion

differentiated.

[Mitleiden]

the same process as aesthetic

not

only

scher's

had

careful

no

scientific

distinctions

sympathy

but

between

basis

and

they

W?lfflin's

were

claim,

not

for

is psychologically

[?sthetischeMitf?hlen]"

contradicted

Einf?hlung

also

Vi

An

and

1995

(artwork

<

Barbara

Kruger;

photograph

provided

by

f?hlung,

Nachf?hlung,

as

attentive

feeling,

and Zuf?hlung,

responsive

feeling,

which

and

may

be

translated

immediate

feel

ing,

respectively.11

We

response;

among

events.12

are

aware

an

of

the

example

the

squeamish

to

power

would

by

of

be

images

the

elicit

discomfort

of

depictions

physically

a

visceral

provoked

painful

Vischer

articulated

this

response

to

form

in

abstract

terms,

reactions.

arguing

Vision

relied

that

even

simple

in

on

fact,

a

reshaping,"

observe

stimulus

different

occurred

marks

was

could

not

induce

physical

the

in

itself,

heavily

of

always

responses

emotion,

creative

he

another

particular

noted,

not

part

central;

process

cluded

some

network

imagination,

or

the

that

and

aesthetic

(in

"the

so much

of

our

intensity

an

of

identity

specta

in

forms

model

than

spatial

cases)

understanding,

"artistic

our

"We

can

fact

eyes

This

that

as

often

a visual

a

with

sensation

the

body's

for

psychic

skin

response.

curious

the

in ourselves,"

is experienced

sense

in

with

he

with

argued,

shivers

such

bodily

powerful

used

a

physical

as

colors,

self-awareness.

of

sense

loss

examples

and

optics,

and

with

body."13

along

explanation

aesthetic

and

surfaces,

usefully

providing

and

goose

bumps

self

of

the

mystical

Along

transport.

projection,

produced

a

articulated

a

powerful,

the destabilization

sensations

that

selfhood.

or

of

natural

lines),

a

on

tor's

Einf?hlung,

simultaneously

simple

rhetorical

other

reinforced

Vischer

words,

primarily

circles,

from

(such

as

derived

clouds,

physiology,

philosophy

rather

This content downloaded on Tue, 5 Feb 2013 17:34:40 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

2 Heinrich

W?lfflin,

drawing

of

Romanesque

and

Getty

Research

Research

Library,

Gothic

Institute,

860448

arches.

The

Los

Angeles,

ON

THE

LIMITS

OF

EMPATHY

I4I

o s A n g e l e s , ON THE LIMITS OF EMPATHY I

from

decade.

art history,

the

A

hazy

mixture

discipline

he

of

projections

would

and

enter

within

impressions,

the

Ein

f?hlung

could

did

also

he

be

and

provoked

sculptures.

by

such

three-dimensional

in the final of

pages

of

works

of

the

context,

ques

Apostles.

objects as flowers

his

Only

the

the

treatise

attend

to

had

perception

art?which,

 

he

maintained,

purest

optical

feeling.

In

this

the

representational

nature

tioned;

his

examples

include

But

in

combining

psychology,

of

universal

Vischer

and

terms

"pure

for

form"

the

spectatorship,

the

others

theory

developed

and

practice

of

the

twentieth

capacity

to

prompt

was

never

Eour

and

the

Einf?hlung

helped

abstraction.

notion

set

that

the

The

within

late-nineteenth-century

of

these

Albrecht

objects

D?rer's

optics,

fine

discourse

art,

of

unwittingly

of

century

visual

was

embedded

an

idea

of

embodied

perception.

According

while

horizontal

looking

line

horizontally,"

to Vischer,

a

at

single

he

is

pleasing

declared,

spectators

vertical

because

whereas

feel

line

physical

discomfort

on

a blank

page.

the

a

eyes

"vertical

are

positioned

line,

by

con

"A

trast,

can

be

disturbing

when

perceived

in

isolation

for

it

contradicts

forces

them

the

to

binocular

function

than

right

Vischer

positing

human

verticality

body

and

the

discussed

perceptual

faculties

of

in

structure

a more

as

the

of

the

perceiving

complicated

visual

expression

way."14

of

eyes

and

Rather

the

up

horizontality

pure

the

form

of

individual

as

a

implying

a landscape,

line

in

spectator.

relation

He

to

under

the

stood

human

vision

to be

simultaneously

optical

and

bodily

and

vision,

the

scopes

ates

that

selves

described

which

actual

the

is

mediate

size

not

create

it,

crucially,

an

as

image

seen

binocular.

without

through

Unlike

reference

telescopes

image.

monocular

to

and

vision

As

perceives

of

scale?

micro

situ

objects

them

held

images

immediately

an

body

apparent?binocular

in

relation

to

the

moreover,

of bodily

spectator's

visual

experience,

binoculars

perception;

image by means

in

the

comes

viewer's

unified

hands,

only

they

within

present

the

a

doubled

viewer's

body.15

tant views

spectator

into haptic

to

"empathize

experiences,

into"

an

they allow

image.

image

Turning

that

be

dis

the

individual

The

W?lfflin,

concept

whose

of

Einf?hlung

suffused

dissertation,

Prolegomena

zu

the

einer

early

work

Psychologie

of

der

Architektur (Prolegomena to a Psychology of Architecture),

was completed

in

of

This

1886

in the Department

"Asymmetry,"

of Philosophy

were

of

wrote,

missing

vision

the

often

or

University

experienced

injured."16

Munich.

as

physical

psychological

W?lfflin

limb

pain,

as

if

a

understanding

at

"is

as

embedded

in the body

could

be most

productively

applied,

he

believed,

 

to

the

interpretation

 

of

works

of

architecture.17

 
 

of

architectural

form,

and

architecture

 

itself,

an

opportunity

 

for

embodied

vision.

Wolfflin's

 

own

of

Romanesque

and

Gothic

arches

on

a

scrap

of

 

into

his

copy

of

the

Prolegomena

 

allow

us

to

test

that

"the

round

arch

is

generally

recognized

as

to

look

at

than

the

pointed

arch.

The

former

 

its

task

quietly,

content

with

its

roundness;

 

the

Representations

provided

drawings

paper

his

tucked

claim

more

goes

cheerful

about

latter

embodies

For W?lfflin

a will

at

this

and

effort

time,

both

in every

line"

architecture

(Fig. 2).18

and

its

two

dimensional

Einf?hlung.

representation

Schmarsow,

were

however,

equally

distinguished

capable

of

between

eliciting

the

two.

In

a

lecture

in

1893 marking

his

inheritance

history

favor of Vischer

chair at Leipzig

(a position

for which

and W?lfflin</