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Entity, Apathy, Empathy, & Sympathy


Entity, Apathy, Empathy, and Sympathy is a visual expression of dynamics within a family.  A standard champagne colored queen size mattress is embedded with tufts of human hair.   The tufts of hair look like plugs of doll hair and spell out four words.  The text is obscured and difficult to read due to the density and flow of the hair.  The words on the bed read as follows: Entity, Apathy, Empathy, and finally ending with Sympathy.  The hair colors starts at the top with the word Entity in jet black and slowly gradates to a dark brown at the bottom with Sympathy.


I started with the word Entity.  The definition of entity is something that exists by itself: something that is separate from other things.  Even though the mattress itself is a physical representation of a human presence, I felt that it was not enough.  I choose Entity because I wanted to show the presence of the human memory that is still contained in the bed.

The remaining three words work together to discuss successive emotional states. Apathy is the feeling of having little emotion or interest.  Empathy is the feeling of understanding and sharing another person’s experience and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings.  Sympathy is the feeling of caring about and are feeling sorry for someone else’s trouble, grief, misfortune: a feeling of support.  I choose the words Apathy, Empathy, and Sympathy, because it is the natural progression in human emotions.


Family dynamics are one of the most complex relationships we will ever have.  In most cases you do not choose your family, but rather you are born into them.  There are members that you get along with easily and those that you have difficulty understanding. Sometimes you hate and love them all at once.


My parents immigrated to the United States with my brother in 1983 from South Korea.  Like many immigrants they moved to a new country with only items they could carry, to start a new life with the hope of better opportunities. Starting out my family was poor and could only afford one bed. The first piece of furniture they purchased after moving to the US was this mattress. My parents and my brother slept in this bed until I was about three years old, then my brother and I shared this bed until I was seven.


The details of the bed reveal the history of people living their day-to-day lives on this mattress.  The mattress is old, stained, and lumpy with wear and use.  The bed holds nearly three decades of impressions of bodies that have slept on for over ten thousand nights.


Entity, Apathy, Empathy, and Sympathy is a thirty-year physical record of my family’s day-to-day life.  The hair that is used in this piece was collected from my family over a period of two years.  I wanted to embed my family’s hair, which is a record of their body, into the mattress that has recorded their everyday life for nearly thirty years.  I chose these words for their content and meaning to represent the different emotional stages of the family’s relationship and its complex dynamics that are ever changing.

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