Yale Norfolk 2020

Summer Art Lecture Series: The Shape of Empathy

Norfolk, CT

The Yale Norfolk School of Art will offer a thematic program, made possible by Norfolk Foundation, Inc., called “The Shape of Empathy” that will include a series of public lectures covering divergent topics such as the rich and varied history of mime, the exploration of how we speak and listen, the tension between entitlement and empathy and composing protest songs. The roster of speakers will influence the students’ summer dialogue in a structured way, culminating in an online video archive of these interactions. Yale Norfolk seeks to engage with the Norfolk residential community and also with a broader public to build a more diverse audience during the summer period. Receptions will follow each lecture to enhance this synergy.

Yale Norfolk’s co-directors, Byron Kim and Lisa Sigal chose the subject “The Shape of Empathy” because they couldn’t think of a more vital topic. Speakers will address diverse attitudes toward empathy and multiple perspectives in order to unpack the ways in which we might better understand each other. Empathy is defined as an imaginative and psychological assignment to an object, or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself. We anticipate conversations about ascribing meaning onto works of art along with questions like, is it ok for an artwork to lack empathy? And is it possible to discuss the shape of our empathy toward the planet on which we live? Steffani Jemison’s lecture, will question “How we can use our bodies to amplify and extend the reach of speech?”

The resident faculty will be Ayham Ghraowi, Byron Kim, Lisa Sigal and four Teaching Fellows, selected from recent graduates of Yale’s esteemed MFA program. In addition to the Norfolk Summer course schedule, students will investigate “The Shape of Empathy”, the theme of the summer’s lecture series, with visiting scholars and artists who will engage the students in a wide range of vibrant topics. Students follow a curriculum of Yale College art courses including Critical Studies, Advanced Image Making, Body, Space and Time and Senior Studio which consists of modules focused in drawing and other disciplines. Students work in individual studio spaces and have access to digital printers, computers, traditional printmaking presses and silkscreen facilities. 

The roster of speakers will include Morgan Bassichis, Steffani Jemison and three additional guest speakers to be confirmed. Morgan Bassichis’ comedic performances includes Nibbling the Hand That Feeds Me in the 2019 Whitney Biennial, Damned If You Duet, The Kitchen, NYC (2018), and More Protest Songs! Danspace Project, (2018). Steffani Jemison has a unique relationship to language, movement and performance. Her performances, videos, lectures and images seek to place historical moments in conversation with contemporary ones. She will work with a mime at Norfolk to present On Similitude, performed as part of the 2019 Whitney Biennial, to present the work of Etienne Decroux, who popularized mime in the twentieth century and pitted physical movement against language. One of the subtle underlying questions of Jemison’s performance is, “Are all bodies equal?”

All lectures held at 7pm at Yale Norfolk School of Art, Battell House, with receptions to follow. All are free and open to the public.