A little meditation on empathy


Some friends and I hosted a community art assignment last night at our local arts center. I wrote the software for the 3D painting app and projection mapping system using three.js, p5.js, and py5. The source code for the first iteration lives in this repo.

A little background

com·mon | ˈkämən | shared by, coming from, or done by more than one

pas·tiche | paˈstēSH, päˈstēSH | an artistic work consisting of a medley of pieces taken from various sources

em·pa·thy | ˈempəTHē | the ability to understand and share the feelings of another

The idea for Common Pastiche evolved through conversations about perception and ways technology can help us understand each other. Early iterations focused on style transfer and “seeing” the world through the eyes of others. This led to more research on empathy.

The word “empathy” was created in the early 20th century as a model for art appreciation. In that context, empathy described the act of projecting one’s feelings into an artwork in order to appreciate it. At the same time, we know that art often serves as a window into the feelings of a subject or artist. The job of the artist, then, is twofold: they must open a window for the viewer and construct an object for projection.

This is our little meditation on empathy. Making art, and sharing that experience with others, makes us more empathetic. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore new media with friends and to share it with our community. Thank you Catherine Stroud, Chris Shinn, Jean Shon, and Troy Buhler.

The project was funded by the City of Galveston’s Cultural Arts Commission in July 2022. Its first run was held at the Galveston Arts Center in August 2023. Thanks CAC and GAC!