Paris born New York based artist Shani Ha intervenes on different cities to make them more empathic. She creates a sculptural layer of softness between the toughness of the city and her exposed citizens. EmpathiCity provides a visual and interactive break to make cities restful and welcoming.

The EmpathiCity invasion functions as a sculptural ephemeral graffiti that contributes to a more caring and positive appropriation of the cities.

The artist repurposed friend’s sofas to extend their social life and bring a touch of “home” in public spaces.

The Public Art interventions started in 2012 and have already travelled to Paris, New York, Miami, Bruxelles and Los Angeles. EmpathiCity continues spreading…

Project Statement
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.

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.

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.

« Empathicity doesn’t solve the problem but tries to address it. These enigmatic street sculptures shake our routines and encourage active behavior. Some people lay on them spontaneously, some play with them and other don’t even notice them. The Comfort Extensions are tools to experiment a metaphorical and empathic re-appropriation of our cities. I’m fascinated by all the reactions depending on the city, space, time etc. I always travel with a few Comfort Extensions to continue the spreading of the experience.» explains the artist.

Images by Shani Ha, Marielle Pottier, Kevain Delpesche, Louise Devin


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