An Empathic aesthetic experience is a feeling inspired through an art experience to have empathy for a disadvantaged individual, group, or situation. It can also be a transformative experience in a non-artistic sense. In other words, it may change the whole way that you view a situation. For example, films that deal with injustice of some sort can change perceptions in an extremely powerful way. Think of “The Colour Purple”, “Schindler’s List”, or “Erin Brockovich”.
I originally called this type “critical” as it relates loosely to critical theory. However, as criticism is also an important part of arts education (in a completely different sense), I’ve renamed it “Empathic”.
This response can also be a reaction to the empowerment of disenfranchised participants (e.g., children performing in an adult-centred education system; special needs students performing without support). Reality TV shows such as “talent” ones rely on this type of experience to make their audiences react (often with tears). Watch the YouTube clips of Paul Potts
or Susan Boyle
, and you will see an “unlikely” candidate (often disregarded at first by the judges) suddenly rocket to stardom because the judges (and the audience) just didn’t expect to see that underdog actually perform well. This is actually what the producers of the shows want to find, as it maximizes the aesthetic response for the audience. Note the number of “hits” for these YouTube clips – they’re huge!