Marcel Duchamp shook the art world massively in 1917 with a readymade sculpture named Fountain.
The piece forced viewers to reassess the space in which artwork was presented and question what can be classified as art.Fountain was rejected from the first annual exhibition of the Society of Independent artists at The Grand Central Palace in New York, even though criteria stated anything could be submitted if the entrance fee was paid. Why was this artwork perceived as not suitable for The Grand Central Palace, does space occasion appreciation in artwork?The appreciation of art has been debated from its creation, early philosophers held contradictory views on appreciation and purpose of art. Plato’s believed art was twice removed from reality and therefore has no place in the world; opposed to Aristotle, who believed this imitation to be essential in the craftsmanship of existence (Aristotle, trans 1961). Studies on the most and least wanted paintings for each country by Komar & Melamid (1995) show that the most desirable paintings all included landscapes depicting the natural world. The least wanted were all straight lines including abstract textures and colours. Underpinning Plato’s argument as the least desirable paintings seem separated from reality by not immediately showing the natural world. Whereas Aristotle believed in arts use as education and the communication of knowledge and virtue.
Analysing the widely popular app Instagram, wherein photographs are either liked or not liked by users online. The top 7 liked photographs are all depicting achievement (birth, kidney transplant, ballon d’Or award). Fantastic lessons in which vast amounts of knowledge are dispersed when discovering how these situations have come to be. Although even a good imitation can undermine the stability of even the best humans by making us feel sad, depressed, and sorrowful about life itself (Plato, trans 1943). As recent studies on Instagram and the associations with depression (Reece & Danforth, 2017), show that the art form does show an unrealistic expectation of the natural world and our place in it.
Both ideologies of art appreciation I believe to be true. (Carroll, 2016) concludes in the Journal of Aesthetic Education that appreciation of art is “… something that is worthy of debate and not a matter of sheer opinion.” Defining appreciation by “appreciation-as-liking” and a modern view of “appreciation-as-sizing-up” which analyses critically methodology and stylistic choices to see if they are congruent with the message. In this essay, I will discuss examples of art in which space has been manipulated for its appreciation, whilst underpinning this relationship with relevant psychological theory. The first specimen is Anish Kapoor’s “At the Edge of the World II (1998)”see fig.
1. Shown at 180 the Strand gallery in London in an exhibition called “Everything at Once”. It involved a massive safari hat shaped object being suspended from the ceiling of the room which purposefully consumed the whole space. The artificial light pointing down from the ceiling did not reach the inside of the red velvet hat shaped object. Which created darkness that mystifies the pieces visual apex and invites the audience in closer as if to disorientate and create a sense of infinite cosmological space. The primary and overwhelming manipulation of space is scale, (Manco 2014) comments on Lilian Bourgeat’s work who places mundane objects to a theatrical arena size in to deny their conventional affordance. The scale of the work is contrasted by the form stereotypical use. Underpinned by the ‘ecological aesthetics theory’ which proposes that all sight is created due to the acts that should be carried out with them (Gibson 1979).
The psychological process of the spectators perceived prior knowledge of the object contrasting with the reality of the scale disorientates the spectator. An example of this is what Gregory (1997) described as ‘the hollow face’. Where an image of a hollow mask rotates, but after it has gone 180 degrees it still looks like the face is facing towards the viewer. Humans have a strong bias when viewing a concave mask as our brains are familiar with viewing convex faces when visually processing emotions of others. This bias is so strong it counters competing monocular depth cues like shading, shadows and unambiguous information from the two eyes working stereoscopically.
Thus, the face looks like it is always facing the viewer even though one is aware it is rotating in only one direction. This is indicative of the top-down/bottom-up visual processing model (Gregory 1970). Following the affordance of the object as a hat I walked directly underneath the centre like I was going to place the hat on. The acoustics of the space changed due to the soundwaves bouncing abstractly off the art. My whole visual field was consumed when looking up at the piece creating solidarity. This, paired with an oversensitive and reactionary nature from my peripheral vision (Strasburger, Rentschler & Juttner, 2011) made me feel an anxious fight or flight response. The prostriata area found in the brain is associated with peripheral vision.
(Mikellidou et al., 2017) studied this link and the evolutionary capabilities of it and hypothesises that this part of the brain is associated with emotions and primal instinctual cognitions because things in the periphery may need to be responded to quicker than average neural pathways. The socio-economic factor of space in this example is that it is being exhibited in a well-known accredited exhibition as well as an affluent and popularised location in London.
Although this relationship is not at all causational, many artworks are appreciated when having little of no funding at all. (Dempster, 2017)’s review of arts relationship with economics states art appreciation to be autonomous from economic factors, stating “…art is not economics, and economics is not art. So here’s to the irrational, emotional, inefficient, uncertain, opaque art world.” As well as this the exhibition was primed to audiences with adverts claiming the exhibition as a high standard of work. The priming effects the spectator’s appreciation of the art as there are acclaimed references and many opinions on the work before it has been experienced first-hand. (Winston & Cupchik, 1992) found a relationship in spectators who went to galleries as being more motivated to see artworks. This is due to the effort and money needed to get to a gallery instead of the instant media presented at home.Smith & Smith, (2001) conducted an observational study to determine how long different spectators in The Metropolitan Museum spent on 6 paintings.
Then following this up 15 years later to see if it had changed (Smith, Smith & Tinio2016) The original findings reported a mean amount of time of 27.2 s (SD = 33.7); for the current study, this was 28.63 s (SD = 24.39). The medians were also comparable, at 17 s in the 2001 study and 21 s in the current study; the modes were identical across the studies, at 10.00 s.
Concluding that the amount of time did not change but emphasis the behaviours of spectators changing due to photography. This memory capability that instant photography allows the history of the piece and its part in human development to be part of the viewer as well. In terms of philosophy and education to humanity, their moment with the lesson has been documented.(Carbon 2017) also studied art viewers in State Museum for Art and Design in Nuremberg, finding many individual factors that affect the time spent viewing art. Most interestingly though was the social factor of perceived appreciation. This is when others viewing the art increases viewing time of the primary spectator.
Putting more weight onto not only the subjective opinion as appreciation, but the perceived knowledge of art in gallery environments. (Wolz & Carbon 2014) studied originality of work and how it effects appreciation of the art. Authenticity can be valued highly when the artist is well known and popularised enough for there to be copies. I believe authenticity is a major factor of art spaces and art appreciation when referencing gallery as opposed to domestic and internet presentations, as philosophical questions of what is fake and what is real are posed. Human history is entwined with art to mark historic times and memories that are valuable lessons.
Aristotle’s paradigm of art being for educational and communicational purposes would be pivotal in this question of originality as all great lessons are learnt from the methods of the past.The space in which the art is presented could be described as the medium of their work. For example, in Yoko Ono’s performance art piece, “Bed Peace” her medium was not an exhibition space but the mass media and the journalistic coverage of her and Jon Lennon’s marriage and passive peace movement (which in appreciation-as-sizing-up classes as a congruent stylistic choice due to the passivity of the art).
The first point of contact with any viewer is when the decision of how much time to devout to the understanding of the message of the piece of art comes. Malatjie 2013 speaks on the difference between white box traditional exhibition spaces and ‘alternative’ gallery spaces in which the artwork is more combined with the space. Although she is hesitant to see this as being as mainstream due to it being considered as, ‘experimentation and to provide something outside the norm’.(Collins, 1992) discusses anamorphosis, “… a drawing presenting a distorted image which appears in natural form under certain conditions, as when viewed at a raking angle or reflected from a curved mirror.” while studying the subversive presentation of perspective.
This is illustrated brilliantly by Markus Raetz sculpture (2000) see fig. 2 which, from the title shows both the phrases ‘oui’ and ‘non’ which is French for yes and no. The contrasting semantic meanings highlight the hypocrisy of human perception and the subjectivity of interpretations in art. This both confirms and challenges the conventions of linear perspective in representation (Collins, 1992). Underpinned by subjectivists such as (English et al ., 1994) and Duchamp himself when quoted saying “The spectator makes the picture”. Subjectivity is the main reason why art appreciation seems so elusive when focussing scientifically on the subject.
Semantic relationships of between life experiences and emblematic aesthetics creates a vast variety of recordable stimuli. Fechner’s (1871) work on psychometrics has influenced the way in which art is communicated now. The sensitivities in which the human body can experience and the increments of sensation allow artists now to understand the limitations of their communication. This is also useful for curators of art spaces themselves, many galleries use white walls and clear backgrounds when framing art so the colour contrast can be distinguished easily. Contours of rooms are either accentuated or depressed to fit with the piece in a sizing up compliment to the message being presented (McManus et al., 2011).
Subjective awareness is illustrated very well at the ‘Everything at once’ exhibition as there was even a piece which explored the conformity of a spectator in an art gallery, having street lines painted on the floor which implicitly told the spectators which direction to follow and which line of observation is most effective. Curators are employed to discuss and understand semiotics, the study of signs and symbols as elements of communication, which projects a narrative through the order of presentation. Sometimes in chronological order as when dealing with retrospectives of an artist’s, to show their growth and their progress, or just groupings of similar styles of art.Allowing another level of analysis from the spectator as to why a certain piece is placed in a gallery in a certain space, aligning with Carrol’s ‘appreciation-as-sizing-up’ theory. This relationship was shown very clearly by Prem Krishnamurthy when curating a retrospective exhibition in The Stanley Picker Gallery on ‘P!CKER PART I: Elaine Lustig Cohen (2017)’. Who recreated the aesthetic and the intimacy of Elaine’s work who was not able to oversee the space herself.
Applying wallpaper to sides of the gallery space replicating Elaine’s studio, using photographs of Elaine working in her studio. The use of space in the gallery shows congruency with the style and objectives of the artist themselves, as well as referencing the methods in which it was produced.Concluding with (Brieber, Nadal, Leder & Rosenberg, 2014), who observed eye movements and the differences in appreciation, understanding and ambiguity when viewing art in either a museum or laboratory setting. Finding increased appreciation, understanding and ambiguity in the museum condition. These results may be due to the difference in luminance as light reflects off tangible pieces when viewing them in person contrasting with a screen that produces light itself in the laboratory setting. Although contrasting with (Smith and Smith, 2001)’s unobtrusive observational method, as participants were aware their eye movements were being recorded. Thus, a social desirability bias on viewing time cannot be totally excluded. We will never know if someone appreciates a piece of art separately from the space it inhabits as in the reality we are presented we can only process information through our senses.
If it were to be without space, this is what Plato calls an idea and therefore the space it inhabits is consciousness.