Monday, January 16, 2012

Quick re-post: "Too Much For the Brain To Take In"

I was reading this article within the context of "observation". The Australian Arts & Lifestyle has a good article on a topic we have seen before: Too Much For The Brain To Take In

I'm going to take the liberty of excerpting what I think is the gist below, which lays out a logic for what we value in art: a transformative experience. That delightful mix of Resonance with an idea and Wonder at its realization or character. Experienced internally through observation and presence, and shared through proximity and subsequent conversation:
"A picture is not absorbed in a flash, apparently, but by a process of visual assembly. "The result of this rather mad experiment," says Alexander Sturgis, the curator of a show based on this research, was that "surprise, surprise, everyone looks differently". 
Our idiosyncrasies put curators to the test....  A single picture, hung in isolation with no writing around it and perfect lighting, might be what some people long for, but others will be completely put off." 
"You might assume that going to an art gallery is about looking at art works," says Leader, "but it's just as much about looking at other people. When the Chapman brothers showed their McDonald's effigies many were shocked because the amazing thing about that show was that the room was dark and people could only look at the work, not at each other." Many shuffled away quickly to discuss it afterwards in the safety of their fellow group...
"In a sense we are not interested in art. We are interested in what other people are interested in. 
"Built into how we see an art work is how someone else sees it," Leader says. As he explains in his Stealing the Mona Lisa: What Art Stops Us From Seeing, "visual images on their own might trap us, but for our capture to become more than transitory they need to take on a symbolic, signifying value". 
"A place has to be made for them. Crucially, art works need to mean something for someone else."
"Our relationship with art is far more than visual. It is social, emotional, philosophical and spiritual. You will push your way free of the thronged blockbuster when you have reached the end of your physical or mental strength. This could take three hours or three minutes. But there will probably be an image that you won't be able to push out of your mind. It will have outfaced you in the staring contest. It's not you who takes in the art, but the art that takes over you."
I wonder about that last idea that for "our capture to become more than transitory they need to take on a symbolic, signifying value" and consider if it's possible to integrate such a social and psychological phenomena into an exhibition. Or is that something that happens whether or not we try? Perhaps I'm making this too much for my brain to take in.


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