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Augmented Empathy 2020 Keiken Sakeema Crook Ryan Vautier Photo by Drew Forsyth Installation view at FACT

Augmented Empathy (2020)

As part of The Living Planet, our year-long programme which focuses on the non-human, and deals with themes such as climate change, ecology, and communication, the artist collective Keiken have developed a multi-layered participatory project called Augmented Empathy. Developed as a new collaborative commission with FACT’s Learning team, the artists designed a project which mirrors the way we, and specifically young people, learn through the navigation of social media.

Keiken are a cross-dimensional collaborative practice (Hana Omori, Isabel Ramos and Tanya Cruz), whose practice merges the physical with the digital by building online worlds and augmented realities. In Augmented Empathy, the collective explores the subversion of existing tools -in this case, Instagram filters- and how social media can be used as a space for exchange and artistic creation. The result was 4 Instagram filters which can be downloaded and used by anyone.

From these filters, the collective was joined by Sakeema Crook, and also CGI artist Ryan Vautier who creates animated worlds exploring the fractures between the digital and physical, to develop a series of live performances and this film installation. Crook is an international dance artist whose practice explores world-building, intersectionality and carving progressive realms. Visitors are invited to activate and interact with augmented reality pieces, which extend from Sakeema’s body whilst she speaks and performs a continuation of the speech she gave at the recent Black Lives Matter Protests and Black Trans Lives Matter Protests. This performance spreads Sakeema's message, that through the understanding of intersectionality, we can create a new path for fluidity, love and change.

Together, they have created a speculative world where we can utilise readily available technologies to interact better with one another. The way the collective uses these tools bypasses not only physical limitations of the body itself, but also the boundaries which society imposes upon those bodies. Their work draws upon the power of nature, and uses sounds, images and motions from the natural world to communicate. It reminds us how disconnected we have become from the environment, and the experiences of others - be they human, or non-human. In this space, bodies can be anything, and connect in unimaginable ways, unbound by our expectations or assumptions. Experiencing the world through these filters, and with these digital modifications, allows us to inhabit a space centered around empathy and understanding.

Augmented Empathy is an exercise in unlearning the ways in which we construct identity, and developing a more fluid and generous space of understanding. The technologies used give us the opportunity to make the invisible visible, and to create spaces which are different from those we see and feel in our day to day lives. These digital spaces encourage us to experience things more collectively, even as we are far apart, and bring us face to face with realities we didn’t even know existed.

Tap the photos below on a mobile device to try on the effects or go to @FACT_Liverpool on Instagram.

With thanks to all collaborators: Sakeema Crook, Ryan Vautier and Sarah Blome. Score and Sound design by Khidja, Sound Design by Robert Malone.