When Art Is Not Mastered but Creates Insights. Shifting In and Out of Semantic Instability

In: Art & Perception
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  • 1 Department of General Psychology Methodology, University of Bamberg, Germany
  • 2 Research Group EPÆG (Ergonomics, Psychological Æsthetics, Gestalt), Germany
  • 3 Bamberg Graduate School of Affective and Cognitive Sciences (BaGrACS), Germany

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It seems straightforward that humans seek stability while shifting in and out of it, be it the constant effort to stay in balance on our feet, to keep viable by homeostasis, or to make sense by actively predicting and constructing semantic stability. We suggest a dynamic view on the process of shifting in and out of semantic stability, especially in the case of art experience. Whereas gaining insight is related to liking, interest reflects the motivation to explore and benefits from promised opportunities for insight. Such general mechanisms could be relevant for responses to artworks that resist perceptual habits and allow for engaging shifts in and out of Semantic Instability (SeIns). A fictive protocol of experiencing an artwork exemplifies that gaining insight does not necessarily resolve SeIns. We suggest that some artworks do not ask for specific ‘solutions’ or a ‘mastering’ of predefined instabilities but allow for creating insights. This process can even be part of an ongoing engagement which makes us seek stability but gain insights when shifting in and out of it.

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