Empathy for Place series

In collaboration with Sarah Wright, MFA, Edrex Fontanilla created three virtual reality installations, as part of the Change Ecologies collective, that offer experiential glimpses of urban wilds. The project invites viewers to witness and be present in marginal or vanished landscapes they may not otherwise see. Each iteration of the project sought to engage a different audience in a specific context, from a small community gallery in Queens, to the banks of the Newtown Creek, to the larger community of the Queens Museum, which culminated in an artist-built virtual reality viewer accessible to museum patrons of all ages.  In their presentations, Fontanilla and Wright discuss the challenges and potential of using virtual reality for socially engaged art, and explore how the problems and possibilities of virtual reality as an “empathy machine” change when applied to endangered places instead of people.


Works during the Tenure Track include:  Over the River (2015);  Hidden Vistas (2016), Immersive Landscapes: Hunter's Point South (2016), Immersive Landscapes: Flushing River (2016);  Virtual Reality, Empathy, and Place, (2016);  Chance Ecologies interventions at Open Engagement (2018); Listening to Dutch Kills (2019)


Article:  "Empathy for Place” (2016), with Sarah Nelson Wright


This series made its debut in 2015 at the Radiator Gallery.   Following the Studio in the Park Residency in 2016, the series culminated in a number of talks, a site intervention, and exhibition hosted by the Queens Museum and Union Docs.  Collaborative work in this series continues with the Change Ecologies Collective, with  site interventions and an exhibition as part of Open Engagement 2018, hosted by the Queens Museum, and the SWIM Coalition Public Art Project in 2019.


More information about the conceptual underpinnings that drive the creative trajectory can be found in our article about Empathy for Place, published in the Mediapolis Journal.

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