‘Empathy & Risk’ – Interdisciplinary initiative addressing systemic failure in contemporary crises

Empathy & Risk

Empathy & Risk is an artist-led inter-disciplinary initiative that addresses issues of systemic failure in contexts of contemporary global crisis.

The initiative was born out of a conviction that artists’ perspectives have an important role to play in the framing of international, national and institutional responses to threat and conflict.  Empathy & Risk believes that the capacity of the arts to effectively influence policy development has not been systematically explored, exploited or applied.

Empathy & Risk draws on a body of international artists, academics and practitioners who work in sites of publicly acknowledged empathetic breakdown – curating responses from within the people, policies and processes of these sites.  The evidence of these interventions will contribute to a body of comparative international research and artwork, aimed at influencing policy formulation at national and international level.

The idea for Empathy & Risk initially grew out of the several visits made by David Cotterrell to Afghanistan and Pakistan between the years 2008 and 2015. The Empathy and Risk project was then developed by David and Ruwanthie de Chickera from 2015 – 2018.  During this time, Empathy & Risk existed in the form of discrete and itinerant artist interventions into sites of perceived conflict.

In 2018, Empathy & Risk curated its first multi-disciplinary programme at the Ubumuntu Festival – combining a theatre performance with a researched visual-art installation and connecting these art works to two interdisciplinary panel discussions. Empathy & Risk was officially launched as a project in June 2019 with the support of the Art and Design Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University and at the venue of the World Conference of Statelessness in the Hague.