Osca-Fabian Jentsch spotlights our co-existence with mass escapism and heavy indulgence in drugs, alcohol, and sex to question the essence of empathy and values. By going beyond I think therefore I am, Empathie-Berlin puts a question mark and exclamation point at the end of René Descartes’ statement and presents the art voyeur with a series of portraits which dissect the human psychology. In Osca’s words: I want people to talk about empathy, to talk about values and to ask ‘why are we sometimes evil?’ We have to learn about and question the existence of bad thoughts. With this understanding, we create the opportunity to empathize in the right situation.
This colorful art collection weaves heavenly pastels with hellish hues to deliver a platter of food for thought. Modern co-existence with extreme depravity repaints the age-old philosophical connection between thought and existence. What comprises our raw desires is often discomforting: Freaky Sexuality. Emotional Desperation. Substance Addiction. This fresh artist’s portraits are reflections of an outsider’s view. It brings up the question, how do we deal with the depravity of those we love? Who takes responsibility for thought when something disturbing gets communicated from one person to another? Empathy marches along the border of subjectivity and objectivity. In the moment of vulnerability and personal revelation, is empathy simply acceptance of others? Is there a need to understand?
According to Osca, the art voyeur succumbs to the portrait and actively participates in his experiment of empathy. I want the art voyeur to believe: ‘I can go deeper and understand people.’ I want to change the instinctive position that most of us have that we cannot empathize with extremes, the depravity of personality. When you focus on the head of the portrait, you participate in a certain train of thought by allowing the details to draw you in.
Julia’s full-breasted nude portrait does not distract from the bloody babies in her headspace. Is the curviness of Nora’s mind dictated by confused emotions? Are Manni’s deconstructed geometrical thoughts a sign of permanent ruin? In the words of a patron of the private viewing, That’s the thing, if you are empathizing you can always find one of these portraits that best represents yourself. So maybe the point is recognizing that everyone has their own way of losing themselves.
Empathie-Berlin cuts an opening into your feelings via full-on brain massage. Descartes gave us I think therefore I am without summarizing the essence of human identity. What are we if not our thoughts? The only demand of philosophy is infinite interpretation. Empathie-Berlin does exactly that.
Osca-Fabian Jentsch – “Julia” (2011), Acrylic-Mixed technique, Paper and fabric collage on canvas, 210 x 210 cm; photo: Max Merz
Galerie im Kunsthof
“EMPATHIE – BERLIN 2011” – OSCA-FABIAN JENTSCH
Exhibition: Nov. 26 – Dec. 17, 2011
Closing: Dec. 17; 8pm
Open: Wed.-Sat. 1-6pm
Oranienburger Straße 27 (click here for map)
Laura-Lee Smith is a Berlin-based scholar and writer from New York City.