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Hany Armanious

Empathy Chart  2009

cast polyurethane, pigment

86 × 122 × 2cm

Museum of Contemporary Art, purchased with funds donated by Andrew and Cathy Cameron, 2009


About the Artwork

Empathy Chart is a copy of a scruffy, broken pinboard, complete with scuff marks, embedded pins and a torn edge. This downtrodden noticeboard has been meticulously replicated by Hany Armanious, a sculptor who explores ideas of doubling and artifice by re-creating ordinary things. Here he has salvaged a once useful object still bearing traces of its past life. Like an archaeologist, Armanious has retrieved it and cast it in polyurethane, creating a new object that is an exact copy of the original. But his interest is not in preserving the past so much as it is in testing our reactions to seeing something irregular – a cast-off pinboard on the wall of an art gallery, cast in polyurethane rather than made from chipboard. Armanious is playfully toying with our perceptions of not only art, but of objects, and how they may speak to us.

Empathy Chart was first exhibited in Armanious’ 2009 exhibition Uncanny Valley, which explored the idea of simulacra, and our responses to it. The title was taken from 1970s research by the Japanese roboticist, Masahiro Mori, which charted public attitudes toward robots. Mori found that as the robots became more human-like, people’s empathy with the robots increased; but as the robots’ appearance improved and they became more lifelike, people’s attitudes unexpectedly switched sharply from empathy to repugnance. It is this graph of people’s responses that Armanious references in Empathy Chart, and the idea of the disturbing copy has become a continuing feature of his practice.
Updated and approved August 2016.

Hany Armanious

– About the artist

Born 1962, Ismailia, Egypt. Lives and works Sydney.

Hany Armanious is a sculptor whose work is predominantly concerned with the magical properties of the casting process. Many of his works deal with the alchemical transformation of one object into another via what the artist has described as the ‘cult of casting’.[1]

Armanious represented Australia in The Golden Thread at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2011). His selected solo exhibitions include Selflok, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand (2014); we go outside, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2013); The Golden Thread, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2012); Fountain, MCA Sculpture Terrace commission, Sydney (2012); Birth of Venus, Foxy Production, New York (2010); Uncanny Valley, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2009); The Oracle, Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2008); and Morphic Resonances, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand (2006–07). Selected group exhibitions include Busan Biennale, Korea (2007); National Sculpture Prize, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2006); and Selflok, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2003).

Armanious is represented in numerous collections of Australia’s major state and national galleries, as well as the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand; Dakis Joannou Foundation, Athens; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

[1] Hany Armanious, The Cult, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2004.

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