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The art of viewing art. Aspects of a pragmatic aesthetics in art exhibitions

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Translated title of the contributionThe art of viewing art. Aspects of a pragmatic aesthetics in art exhibitions
Original languageGerman
Pages (from-to)83 - +
JournalSoziale Welt
Issue number1

King's Authors


The paper uses video-recordings and field observation to explore how people view artworks in ordinary situations in museums and galleries. It considers the interactional work that people undertake who have come to the museum on their own or with companions. The analysis reveals that social interaction critically influences how people view and make sense of artwork. How someone looks at and sees a piece of art, what particular aspects and features he looks at and how he understands them is not determined by the structure of the piece but arises in and through social interaction between all those in perceptual range of the object. People configure > view spaces <at artworks and constitute the aspects of the pieces that they look at through verbal, bodily and material actions as well as gestures. While interacting at the artwork visitors remain sensible to the presence and actions of others. They coordinate their dwell-time at exhibits and their pace through the galleries with others; and they design their actions at exhibits to provide each other with ways of seeing the artwork. Thus, an interaction order emerges that we characterise as >> pragmatic aesthetics

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