THE EMPATHY TOWER

As part of Hidden Civil War, Johnny was commissioned to perform the building of his artwork "The Empathy Tower" - a response to Ken Loach’s new film I, Daniel Blake - at Northumberland Street on Thursday 20th and continue at Newbridge Project 28th - 30th October 2016. (external link
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Isolating themes from the film, the Empathy Tower is a public engagement work which offers an opportunity for individuals to sign and customise a small block of wood and be involved in creating a lasting sculptural work - a mood of the day.  By participating in this way individuals are able to visualise their empathy, show solidarity with others in the Benefits system and expose the taboo of sighing on.
 
Actors were recruited to hand out ‘jobseeker appointment tickets’ in Newcastle Upon Tyne city centre. The tickets directed recipients to a high visibility location in the city where it could be handed to an ‘official’ sitting at a Job Seeker themed desk.  The person was then invited to ‘sign on’ - signing their name on a wooden block – adding a drawing/slogan/graffiti was encouraged. The signed block was then added to a dynamic tower of blocks - indicating strength and solidarity. As a point of irony, the higher the tower, the more fragile the message.
 
Main themes explored:

  • You need an appointment – nothing happens without an appointment at the Job Centre.

  • The wooden blocks are representative of Daniel Blake’s career as a joiner but also represent a constant, a natural honesty and as far from technology as I can get.

  • Signing your name is an experience. A feeling of giving away something, a part of your identity. By giving to this work, you are showing empathy with those in the Benefits system.

  • By choosing to deface the wooden block, the ‘system’ is subverted

  • The Empathy Tower is solidarity - strength in numbers


 

Photographs by ​Jess Shepherd
Video by Josh Wilson

First Bowie, now this

​Group exhibition at Berwick Arts Gymnasium Gallery.  "Johnny brings a deconstructional lens to the systems of diplomacy, discourse, and commodification at work within contemporary politics"