(Jeff_L) #1


Locating Empathy with Double-blind Drawing and bimanual Palpation

is also quiet and still (allowing the other person
freedom to move or hover intellectually). By using
this approach I hoped to enable the subjects of my
experiments to think and feel on different levels at
the same time.
In Suzanne Keen’s book Empathy and the Novel
(2007) she takes her perspective from both psychol-
ogy and philosophy and describes the contempo-
rary use of the word empathy as follows:

Empathy Sympathy

I feel what you feel I feel a supportive emo-
tion about your feelings

I feel your pain I feel pity for your pain

Drawing: I use the term drawing^6 to mean “the
act of telling a story or making an impression with a
simple tool or material that fits in the palm of one’s
h a n d ”.

Double-Blind Drawing^7 : Drawing using both
hands at once, eyes closed. I like the way the words
double-blind drawing represent an affectionate
parody of the double–blind controlled trial^8 , which
is so fundamental to medical practice. For me there
was a mischievous pleasure in making an experi-
ment that both contained the idea of two arms of

a test, but also represented a single, united process.
I like the notion that one side of the brain might
“tip off ” the other, more logical side that something
mysterious and magical might be going on.
Bimanual Palpation of the Abdomen.^9 Palpa-
tion of the spleen is focused on the haptic elucida-
tion of one of the most difficult organs to detect
from the outside of the body (without the aid of
complex machinery). It requires the senses to be
highly attuned and practiced. Experienced prac-
titioners may close their eyes to perform the task.
This is not written down in a text-book, but is
learned by individual observation and experimenta-
tion. Double-handed technique ensures that several
fingertips catch the sensation of gently rising mass
(the spleen moving with the breath) beneath the
surface of the abdomen. I incorporated this tech-
nique into my New York performance, enhancing
the impression of the subject becoming a patient
in a hospital, undergoing an intimate examination,
whilst also being part of a spectacle in a gallery.

Critical reflections underpinning
this gallery event
A triad of personal observations, collected over
a twenty year period, informed the design of this
performance. Firstly the freedom and excitement
discovered when making sculpture from clay at my
very first sculpture evening class, in 1978, shortly
after registering as a doctor. I had a sensation of

Figure 1. Ian McInnes double-blind drawing at
Thinking Through Drawing.

Figure 2. Artist Jane Fine and James Esber double-
blind drawing at Thinking Through Drawing.
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