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Pragmatist Aesthetics and New Visions of the Contemporary Art Museum: The Tate Modern and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art

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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 38.3 (2004) 91-106 John Dewey mandated the repositioning of our experience of art within the realm of the everyday, and recognized the importance of art objects principally with regard to how they operate within an experience as "carriers of meaning." In this quote from Art as Experience, Dewey illustrates the segue between art and the perceiver, and his belief that within the profound art experience, lived dichotomies are healed: Although the ephemeral nature of Dewey's definition of art-as-experience — hinged upon immediacy and the subjective heuristics of the perceiver — may seem difficult to capture and apply, the practicality of the concept, Richard Shusterman argues, lies in its "transformative potential," as a way to reconceive the place of art and its function in our world: By defining art as experience, Dewey also sought to dissolve the binary structures of aesthetic rifts: art and life, high art and low art, body and mind, subject and object, self and world, emphasizing the holistic action in our engagement with art. But according to Dewey, the divisor of art from life and thus to blame for the aesthetic barrenness of our lived reality is the museum institution, as Shusterman describes: However, we must keep in mind that Art as Experience was published in 1934. Today, new approaches towards encounter and engagement within public museums are taking form and gaining momentum, with unprecedented directorial visions and mandates designed to nurture and make accessible art-based experiences among diverse audiences — where art and life can meet via multiple approaches. Theoretical synchronicities between pragmatist approaches to aesthetics and fruitful museum experiences can be suggested upon consideration of various innovative programs and approaches initiated at the Tate Modern in London and the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art in Gateshead. The overwhelming success of both venues could signify a reengagement of the general public with contemporary art, fed by "democratic," participatory approaches to exhibiting and programming art that make the museum more accessible to the various mixed publics it serves. In light of these new museological developments, Dewey's polemic oppositions between his conceptualizations of the museum experience and "art-as-experience" should be reexamined and possibly redefined. Dewey was entirely opposed to the concept of "art for art's sake." By exonerating art of any functional value — deeming it "fine" — art was elevated to a position separate from life, and thus rendered impotent to effect a lived aesthetic experience (which is how, Dewey would argue, the arts function most powerfully — as the purveyors of heightened experience). As Shusterman describes: Dewey (and Shusterman) thus maintained that the very power construct that put the "fine" in art did so by removing the aspect of function from it. As previously stated, Dewey blamed museum institutions for removing art from its lived, experiential...

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... This applies not only to the leaders themselves but to everyone involved with the process of experience and the "work of art": the public, the artists and the organizers. It should therefore not be a surprise that it has been suggested that Art as Experience could be an inspiration for cultural leaders and those who wish to make their mark on cultural institutions (Jensen 2003;Marsh 2004;Guillet de Monthoux 2004). ...
... In his pragmatist-aesthetic leadership model the viewer/listener/reader is active in creating meaning of cultural objects and doing "the work of art". Via pragmatist management theory (Fontrodona 2002) and look towards philosophical pragmatism in cultural leadership (Bilton 2006;Guillet de Monthoux 2004;Jensen 2003;Marsh 2004) we see that cultural leadership could be different from what it usually is described as in the mainstream cultural management literature, and see that it could focus more on audiences growth, education, critical thinking and the effort of meaning making. ...
... Angela Marsh (2004), in her article, "Pragmatist Aesthetics and New Visions of the Contemporary Art Museum", considers "the current impetus toward "democratizing" contemporary art exhibition practice with regards to Deweyan/Shusterman pragmatist aesthetics" (Marsh 2004: 91). According to Marsh, John Dewey could play an ample role in guiding the process of democratising audiences' relationship with art. ...
... Apart from emphasizing individual experiences, the Tate also promotes community programs where audiences assume the role of participating artists. For example, in one community outreach program, children's artworks were exhibited at the museum space along with those of famous artists (Marsh, 2004). In this case, the children became simultaneously art producers and consumers. ...
... It is generally assumed that audiences are empowered by the use of participatory approaches. Marsh (2004), referring to the Tate Modern's thematically arranged exhibition, mentioned, In recognizing and instigating dialogue through theme and narrative, audiences are empowered to engage with the art through a heuristic process, bridging the lexicon of art to the realm of personal experience. (p. ...
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This article offers a theoretical overview of how diverse disciplines, such as cultural studies, sociology, philosophy of art, education, and marketing, have contributed to the evolving conceptualization of museum audiences over the past 50 years. Audience research has moved through different paradigms. Every shift in the way audiences are viewed unavoidably influences the way museum professionals view themselves, their role, and the way they interact with their audiences. The most recent audience conceptualization envisions visitors as active interpreters who selectively construct meaning based on their personal experiences, associations, biases, and sense of identity, whereas the museum is envisioned as an open work that is only completed by the visitor. However, certain challenges loom over this new audience conceptualization. It is argued that such visualization underestimates power issues while romanticizing the power of audience activity, thereby ignoring issues of responsibility.
... Ahhoz, hogy a múzeumi taktilitás esetünkben felparázslott vitáját megfelelő kontextusba helyezhessük, vissza kell tekintetünk a 80-as évek vége óta jelen lévő new museology kritikai elgondolásaira (Lumley 1988;Vergo 1989;Merriman 1991;Bennett 1995;Macdonald és Fyfe 1996;Macdonald 1998), valamint az ezzel párhuzamosan kibontakozott corporeal turn fejleményeire a filozófiában és a társadalomtudományokban (Turner 1984(Turner , 2012Galagher és Laqueur 1987;Tamborino 2002;Sheets-Johnstone 2009), melyek az utóbbi időben különösen is a szómaesztétika Richard Shusterman által kezdeményezett pro-jektjében kristályosodtak ki (Shusterman 2014). Ezek néhány további szemponttal karöltve elvezettek ahhoz az ezredfordulós muzeológiai diskurzushoz, amelyben a múzeum intézményének nem csupán társadalmi, politikai és ismeretelméleti szerepét vették revízió alá a teoretikusok, hanem szenzoriális működését is, pontosabban azt, ahogyan a múzeumban már a szenzórium szintjén kódolódnak történetileg kialakult és ezért megkérdőjelezhető társadalmi konstrukciók, politikai status quók és ismeretelméleti előfeltevések (Butler 2003;Marsh 2004;Classen és Howes 2006;Dann 2012). Az ezredfordulót követően gyors egymásutánban láttak napvilágot olyan gyűjteményes kötetek, amelyekben a szerzők a taktilitás, az interaktivitás, a multiszenzorialitás, az immerzió vagy éppen a fogyatékossággal élő személyek számára történő hozzáférés biztosításának témáit tették a muzeológia új fókuszpontjaivá (Pye 2007;Chatterjee 2008;Candlin 2010;Levent és Pascual-Leone 2014), továbbá olyan helyszíneken, mint a University College London, a Birkbeck College vagy a montréali Concordia University a legújabb megközelítések figyelemre méltó kutatóközpontjai jöttek létre. ...
... To reflect upon and obtain information to answer this question, we decided to conduct a case study at Tate Britain. 1 Among other things, Tate Gallery has been valued for the creation of curatorial proposals that consider how to respond to new ways of creating and understanding art. These proposals grant the spectator greater agency in the construction of meaning and engage him/her in alternative ways of interpreting the artists' creations (Marsh, 2004). It is of interest to observe how these curatorial ideas have been translated into educational discourses and strategies. ...
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The debates on the interpretation of art that developed in the field of art theory and criticism beginning in the 1960s have influenced the theory and practice of museum education and questioned traditional practices. As a consequence, in recent years, there has been a radical redefinition of the role the viewer must play in interpreting works and exhibitions. The article discusses how and to what extent this turn towards visitor/learner agency in the interpretation has affected educational discourses and practices at Tate Britain gallery. This study is part of a wider investigation analysing how different agents involved in school programmes at Tate Britain conceive of art and interpretation.
... Tate is also valued for the creation of curatorial proposals that consider how to respond to new ways of creating and understanding art. These proposals grant the spectator greater agency in the construction of meaning, and they engage him or her in alternative ways of interpreting the artists' creations (Marsh 2004). ...
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Educational practices in art museums are determined, to a great degree, by ideas of art and interpretation put into play, consciously or not, by both museums and educators. This article presents the results of research conducted at Tate Britain in which we have analysed the concepts of art and interpretation that underlie the discourses of the educators interviewed in this gallery. To this end we have designed a methodological device, a model that proposes four ways of understanding and interpreting art commonly found in educational contexts. This model has arranged the various conceptions from more visual or perceptual approaches to the most experientially complex as those summarised below: works of art as a visual representation and interpretation as identification; works of art as a message to be revealed, and interpretation as decodification; works of art as an intellectual, historical and cultural fact, and interpretation as an opportunity for critical reflection; works of art as the materialisation of an experience, and interpretation as an opportunity for self‐development. We conclude that in interviews with educators working in the Tate Britain different narratives about the idea of art and the idea of interpretation coexist, which in many cases are complementary and in some others are contradictory. Examples of the interviews are presented throughout the article.
... To reflect upon and obtain information to answer this question, we decided to conduct a case study at Tate Britain. 1 Among other things, Tate Gallery has been valued for the creation of curatorial proposals that consider how to respond to new ways of creating and understanding art. These proposals grant the spectator greater agency in the construction of meaning and engage him/her in alternative ways of interpreting the artists' creations (Marsh, 2004). It is of interest to observe how these curatorial ideas have been translated into educational discourses and strategies. ...
... Otros, por el contrario, consideraron que éstas líneas temáticas con yuxtaposiciones a través del tiempo y la geografía, enfatizaban el acto de la interpretación de la obra de arte y propiciaban nuevas y sugerentes perspectivas desde las que "leer" las obras de arte. Perspectivas que facilitan la posibilidad de vincular el arte a la vida cotidiana, objetivo que nos acerca a las posturas defendidas por filósofos como John Dewey (Marsch, 2004) Coincidimos con Ángela Marsh (2004) en que esta forma de organizar las exposiciones compromete a los espectadores en formas alternativas de interpretar las creaciones de artistas, formas que permiten acercar el arte a la experiencia personal y que son más excitantes e interesantes y de alguna manera, más verdaderas hacia la creación artística. Es interesante ver cómo una institución que ha sido pionera en este tipo de práctica curatorial ha trasladado esta nueva mirada al diseño de recursos de interpretación como cartelas, folletos, paneles informativos, audio-guías o recursos interactivos. ...
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En los últimas décadas los museos han estado inmersos en constantes debates en los que se han replanteando muchos de los problemas que afectan a la relación museo-obra de arte-espectador. ¿Cómo se están materializando las nuevas concepciones sobre el conocimiento, el museo, el objeto, el espectador, la interpretación, etc. en los recursos de mediación de los museos?. En este artículo , basado en una tesis doctoral presentada en el área de Educación Artística de la Universidad Pública de Navarra, se analizan algunos de los principios educativos y estéticos que guían el diseño de los recursos de interpretación en las diferentes galerías Tate de Inglaterra y las prácticas concretas en las que estos principios se plasman. El objetivo es señalar buenas prácticas que encarnen nuevas formas de entender el arte, la interpretación y el papel del espectador, y que entiendan a los museos como centros culturales vivos, alejándolos de la idea de institución elitista y autoritaria. In the past few decades, museums have been embroiled in an ongoing debate that has reconsider many of the problems affecting the museum-work of art-spectator relationship. How are the new conceptions of knowledge, museum, object, viewer, interpretation, etc. being materialized in the interpretation resources museums� offer? This article, based on a PhD presented at the Department of Art Education of Universidad Pública de Navarra, analyzes some of the educational and aesthetic principles that guide the design of interpretation resources in the various Tate galleries in England and the specific practises where these principles are reflected. The aim is to identify good practises that embody new ways of understanding art, interpretation and the role of the spectator and that conceive the museums as live cultural centres, away from the idea of an elitist and authoritarian institution.
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