Art and architecture as experience: An alternative approach to bridging art history and the neurosciences
In 1972, Michael Baxandal characterizes the processes responsible for the cultural relativism of art experience as highly complex and unknown in their physiological detail. While art history still shows considerable interest in the brain sciences forty years later, most crossdisciplinary studies today are referring to the neurosciences in an attempt to seek scientific legitimization of variations of a generalized and largely deterministic model of perception, reducing interaction between a work
... of art and its observers to a set of biological automatisms. I will challenge such an approach and take up art theory's interest in the historico-cultural and situational dimensions of art experience. Looking at two examples of large-scale installation and sculptural post-war American art, I will explore instable perceptions of depth and changing experiences of space that indicate complex interactions between perceptual and higher cognitive processes. The argument will draw on recent theories describing neuronal processes underlying multistable phenomena, eye movement, visual attention and decision-making. As I will show a large number of neuroscientific studies provide theoretical models that help us analyse not the anthropological constants but the influence of cultural, individual and situational variables on aesthetic experience.