Digital Empathy: A Miracle of Rare Device

When a bomb explodes in Syria, a statue in the Place de la République in Paris starts to weep. No, this is not just a poetic fantasy. Digital Empathy Device (2016), by South African-born Australian artist Michael Candy, is one of the most astonishing, yet under-reported artworks of recent times. A response to the horrific Bataclan massacre in November 2015 and the subsequent bombings in Syria by the French air force, it is a project that brings together high technology and low cunning, linking performance art and psycho-geography with international travel and political activism. Candy had become obsessed with the so-called miracle of the ‘crying Madonna’ and with the almost Promethean ambition of whether he could make a weeping statue. He flew to Paris, alone. He booked into a cheap hotel. He purchased a variety of everyday items from market stalls and budget stores.


Image: Michael Candy, Digital Empathy Device, 2016. Justin Art House Museum Collection. Image courtesy the artist and JAHM.

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Dr Peter Hill is an artist, writer, and independent curator. He is an Adjunct Professor at RMIT University, Melbourne. He is currently artist-in-residence at PHASMID (GAG Projects) in Berlin. He is on a round-the world lecture tour called Fake News and Superfictions, and will be bringing this to Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong between January and May, 2019. As an artist, he has exhibited in the Biennale of Sydney and the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. His book Stargazing: Memoirs of a Young Lighthouse Keeper won Scotland’s main literary prize, a Saltire Award, in 2004. He is currently completing two books, Curious About Artists: Encounters with 50 Contemporary Artists, from Marina Abramovic to Rachel Maclean, and Art in Australia, from 1988 to 2018. He is also working on a Fake News and Superfictions pop-up project for next year’s Venice Biennale, May You Live in Interesting Times.

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