“The world feels so divided now,” says Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers. Each of us, no matter how kind or compassionate we consider ourselves to be, has blind spots, moments of selective empathy, insidious tunnel vision.
Even when we aren’t consciously aware of it, it’s all too easy to draw lines in the sand that divide and exclude or to find we have sticking points where empathy gives way to become prejudice.
In fact, one might say that prejudice is selective empathy or a failure of collective empathy.
These are some of the ideas that inform Blind Spot, Whim W’Him artistic director’s Olivier Wevers‘s new piece for the XPRESS program opening this Friday, January 17, 2020 at Seattle’s Cornish Playhouse.
There are many ways a failure of empathy can creep in to occlude our views of others and of their relation to us.
Characteristics easy to see or hear, like skin color, accent or some physical disability. Matters of religious belief or sexual orientation. Opinions about specific political issues or on general ethical questions like the meaning of equality. Differences of culture or upbringing. Even the quirks or mannerisms of a particular individual.
All have the possibility of pulling us apart and making us forget that underneath we are the same species, the same human race with similarly constructed brains and other anatomical/physiological features, along with a common range of emotional reactions like fear and needs like love.
In this new work, Olivier draws the viewer’s attention to the failures of empathy in our current world, our haphazard or intentional approaches and avoidances, our calculated or unwitting decisions to turn away from each other and not to hold ourselves accountable for it. He is doing so in collaboration with lighting wizards Hayley Buckbee and Ian Campbell of RSVR Visual Research (watch for a post on them next week). Olivier’s music is from composers as disparate as Icelandic multi-instrumentalist-producer, Olafur Arnalds (his sizzling Dyad 1909) and Antonio Vivaldi, whose haunting Largo castrato solo “Cum dederit,” from his Nisi Dominus based on Psalm 127, ends the piece.
Blind Spot does not offer answers but urges us to probe the mystery of how we can pull back from being hypnotized by external differences and reach inside to touch the essential humanity within us all.