Chapter 7: Capitoline Wolves & Queer Rocker

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In 2016, curator Stephanie Owens invited Caroline Woolard to do a series of projects at Cornell University for an initiative called Abject / Object Empathies which focused on the cultural production of empathy and explored how the objects and images people construct are shaped by interdependent relationships to others. Stephanie Owens asked: What are the ways in which art and design mediate and shape the emotional exchanges between people in tangible form?

In a series of events throughout the semester, Woolard shared her open-access kit for Queer Rocker and invited students to make adaptations of the rocking chair. The Rocker circulates as an open access toolkit. It was first shown at The Very First Year, curated by Laurel Ptak at Eyebeam in 2013, and has been modified for use by students at Cornell University, the State University of New York, Purchase, and at WeMake, a maker space in Milan, using ratchet straps, hardware, and press-fit joints. The kit is available so that anyone with a maker space can modify and produce a Queer Rocker.

What are the ways in which art and design mediate and shape the emotional exchanges between people in tangible form?

Capitoline Wolves, commissioned by Owens for the exhibition, was an installation made for conversations about masculine violence and fantasies of “founding brothers.” Five tables were placed in a pentagonal formation under the grand dome of Sibley Hall at Cornell University. Each table resembles the she-wolf that raised Romulus and Remus; the cherry-wood table has bent hind legs of steel, distended udders of stoneware, and a hanging mirror for a face. The she-wolves’ breasts were filled with water from Ithaca’s gorges. Throughout the installation, visitors placed a delicate bowl with a single hole in the water when their conversations began. When the bowl sunk to the bottom, it marked the duration of a topic of conversation at the table.

An object of art creates a public capable of finding pleasure in its beauty. Production, therefore, not only produces an object for the subject, but also a subject for the object.

— Karl Marx