Daniel William Tompkins


"My name is Dan Tompkins. I told you that I had been researching empathy. Einfuhlung was the first instance of the same meaning or experience which empathy derives from: "in-feeling" when translated directly. It was used to describe how we relate to and experience art or nature in its original use. I was trying to understand how we empathize with things and attribute value beyond aesthetic experience, spatial or formal or material.

So I read some stories about objects that had kind of transcended their physical value to be subsumed by a kind of spiritual attribution. I used my installation as a kind of testing chamber for how to design within the framework of that alernative language-- very animistic and anti-modern. Basically, how to curate that interaction with space. The light was a grow light that fatigued your blue and red cones, so you actually left the cabinet physically changed-- you could only see green light, and there were really intimate relationships with the installation and your body. A person of my build would be perfectly framed around the head and shoulders. It was also mostly salvaged materials, so I thought it kind of drew power from these supplied histories. I kept all the internal structure from the two sets of drawers that I used, so it was really like being inside a cabinet or something-- like it was transforming the scale of your body and really embodying the "internal".

I had a bunch of... kind of generic objects, like a Bic lighter, a little play block with letters on the sides, a deck of cards, some crayons, an alarm clock, and other stuff. I was hoping that they would be like memory icons to signify people or events, or facilitate the recall of those things. The table that intersects with the wardrobe on one side is from earlier in the semester. I was trying to personify it by making it stand up or fall over and knock your things on the floor-- anthropomorphize it with a personality.

There was a motor that periodically buzzed and the legs would twitch. I think it was really hard to curate all these different signifiers because it really packed the thing with a lot of meaning. It was also a kind of stage for reading the stories about the events in which my objects became special or unique or took on that spiritual value. Many of my critics were reluctant to go inside. Some didn't. I handed out a set of folded construction documents to all of them to contrast the emotional space with the stark pragmatism of dimensions and scale."


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