Who is E & R?


The Empathy & Risk inquiry was conceptualised by British visual artist David Cotterrell and Sri Lankan playwright, Ruwanthie de Chickera.


Empathy & Risk is an artist-led inter-disciplinary initiative that addresses issues of systemic failure in contexts of contemporary global crisis.


Empathy & Risk draws on a body of international artists, academics and practitioners who work in sites of publicly acknowledged empathetic breakdown


The Empathy & Risk inquiry was conceptualised by British visual artist David Cotterrell and Sri Lankan playwright, Ruwanthie de Chickera. Empathy & Risk is supported by the Art, Design & Media Research Centre of Sheffield Hallam University, UK and the Global Challenge Research Fund.

In recent years, Cotterrell and de Chickera have been embarking on an eclectic series of field trips and produced a series of experimental artworks to clarify their experience and understanding of fear, risk and empathetic failure. They had been feeling uncomfortable with war being described as a declared state rather than a location on an iterative scale of social disintegration. While accepting that some measure of polarization is a pre-requisite for conflict, Cotterrell and de Chickera have been considering the cycle of disengagement that is required to allow barriers to be constructed, long before they’re recognised as fortifications. Their research seeks to consider the staged challenges to empathy that occur long prior to the descent into the polarised engagement of military forces.

Where risk has been identified, and measures are variably employed as responsive protocols, a situation of distancing can occur – most obviously between the observer and the subject, but also between the perceptions of different observers. To address this threat to collective understanding, they have been developing a research network, exploring the contradictory nature of mutually exclusive versions of truth. Their work considers the way in which risk can be a catalyst to the loss of pluralist narratives as communities and individuals are denied access to each other’s vantage points. In particular, Cotterrell and de Chickera have an interest in the artist’s role in foregrounding subjective and alternate perspectives that may serve to challenge existing datasets, methodologies and illusions of objectivity.