A sculptural series by Claudia Fontes (b. 1964) titled Foreigners (2015) is on display in an exhibition titled Wired for Empathy at the STUK House for Dance, Image & Sound in Leuven, Belgium from 10 - 27 July this year. The exhibition forms part of Artefact, an extensive festival and sound program which explores the theme of empathy in a variety of artistic media, including lectures and podcasts to explore the idea further. Featuring sixteen contemporary artists, the exhibition engages with empathy on an intimate and personal level, as well as in the political and public spheres.
Fontes’ sculptural work depicts intertwined and embracing palm sized figures rendered in porcelain. The intimacy of the sculptures is intensified in the apparent frailty of their materiality. Fontes explains the choice of the fragile material of porcelain in terms of its political resonance — paired with her title Foreigners, Fontes sought to ‘question the validity of the word foreigner’, used in a derogatory way in England. The figures morph and meld together, suggesting a hybridity, rather than a difference, between them.