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Aesthetic experience and action in participatory art.

Wallace, Christopher


Christopher Wallace


John Baldacchino

Dew Harrison

Allan Watson


The purpose of this study is to explore the diverse ways that aesthetic experience is tested by participatory art. The study will show the part played by participatory action in changing the conditions in which aesthetic experience arises. It will be confirmed that when the philosophy of action is taken into account then explanations of participatory art are enhanced. There are many descriptions of aesthetic experience and it is generally assumed to be a cornerstone in explanations of art. In one of the leading accounts aesthetic experience is associated with disinterested perceptions where the individual is free of any practical concern for the object of experience. In recent explanations of contemporary art there is less emphasis on aesthetic experience and there is a tendency to suggest that background knowledge and interpretation are equally as significant as perception in the experience of art. Participatory art is a category of art that explicitly demonstrates this state of affairs. In contemporary criticism participatory art is a term used to describe art that favours an audience composed of active contributors rather than detached viewers. These are artworks that encourage moments of engagement by an audience such as the moving of elements in the work or the movement of the participants body. It could be said that the observable actions of participants mediate between perception and knowledge in participatory art. Such work opens up a space where assumptions made about the experience of art can be challenged. The present study explores how aesthetic experience is affected by the introduction of human action in participatory art by exploring three exhibitions of participatory art at The Tate Modern, The Barbican and Dundee Contemporary Arts. In this study it is suggested that participation in such artwork may be a consequence of deliberation, spontaneity or may take place within a social group. Therefore the aesthetic experiences and actions that are identified in these artworks are examined from the standpoint of reason, the body and social convention through the respective adoption of analytical, phenomenological and institutional/sociological perspectives.


WALLACE, C. 2008. Aesthetic experience and action in participatory art. Robert Gordon University, PhD thesis. Hosted on OpenAIR, [online]. Available from:

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Aug 7, 2009
Publicly Available Date Aug 7, 2009
Keywords Participatory art; Aesthetic experience
Public URL
Award Date Feb 29, 2008


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