Empirical Methodologies and the Value of Subjectivity in the Analysis of the Experience of Contemporary Experiential Art

In: Art & Perception
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  • 1 RMIT University, Australia
  • 2 Real World Studios, Mill Lane, Box, Wiltshire, UK

Current neuroscientific methods for the investigation of art experience are circumscribed by the researcher’s own cultural constructions of gender, art and beauty, and these present difficulties in the production of unassailable empirical data. Gathering biometric data of viewers or participants’ responses to artworks remains equally problematic as a consequence of the anticipation or arousal brought about by the act of preparing the subject for the collection of data. Much of the methodology that has been designed to study aesthetic psychological and affective states is based in classicism, a convention which contemporary experiential art defies. There is a group of contemporary experiential artworks, defined herein as ATRIA (Affective Transcendental Revelatory Immersive Artworks), which report a significantly higher rate for profound, life-changing, epiphanic, transcendent experiences, and the study of the experience of these artworks defies current methodologies. An understanding of these works and states requires a re-evaluation of the value of subjective reportage and the personal truths that are central to these experiences of art. Research artists understand that objective reality does not lie at the core of the experience of art, and that practice-based artist-led research (PBR) must as a consequence critically inform any neuroaesthetic or neuroscientific endeavour or study. The article is an opinion paper by a practising artist, academic and researcher.

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