The Empathy Clinic

Unless we can imaginatively ‘step into someone else’s shoes’ we cannot empathise. But the empathy problem goes deeper. Neuroscientific evidence suggests that we direct empathy to people we perceive to be ‘like us’. Some of us make a conscious effort to overcome bias and stigma – but are we really comfortable with difference and diversity? Can we deal with another’s distress, or even listen effectively? 

The Empathy Clinic brings together leading national and international artists investigating their own and others’ experiences of anxiety, mental health, stigma, and oppressive circumstances. It includes newly commissioned immersive artworks, presenting first-person, embodied perspectives of challenging lived experience, uniquely designed to challenge assumptions about what art does, and how perspective sharing really affects us.

Rather than merely showing this work, The Empathy Clinic asks how we might be radically changed by it: What are the effects (positive or negative) of engaging closely with another’s personal experience? Can we equip people with the tools and insights to become more empathetic? Can we literally defeat stigma with art?

Playing with concepts related to health and service provision as the basis for an innovative art experience, the project refashions the clinic as an aesthetic experience, with artist led projects and tools/techniques for personal and social transformation. The Clinic also runs Appointments, a series of performance events by solo artists; and Course of Empathy, an app to track experiences of empathy following participation in the exhibition program. The Clinic setting is designed by award-winning theatre and exhibition designer, Anna Tregloan to support visitors through their encounters and interactions, and situates artwork in comfortable and stimulating environs.

Trigger warnings: The Empathy Clinic is intended to be challenging in a positive way. The environment supports quiet reflection — and our volunteers and ‘Don’t Rush Home’ policy are in place to ensure supportive discussion. There are no graphic or directly confrontational works, although the content may arouse strong emotions. Specific trigger warnings are provided for certain works. If you are troubled by issues relating to mental health or disability, please familiarise yourself with the project descriptions before viewing and/or seek information from volunteers.

Curated by Bec Dean and Jill Bennett

The Empathy Clinic has a series of Appointments available which can be viewed and booked online here.