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This article explores the ethical questions surrounding the phenomenological approach to interpretation in art history. It addresses contemporary art, from postminimalist sculpture to installation. Although the risk of phenomenology is that it merely confirms and reproduces the viewer's perceptual expectations, in fact, on a deeper level, the notion of the ontological intertwining of the viewer and the artwork demands a receptive stance in the face of art. Through an investigation of the notions of embodiment, intentionality, and mode of confrontation, I suggest that phenomenology not only mediates a trenchant understanding of the perceptual experience of the artwork, it is predicated on an acknowledgement of the artwork's alterity from interpretation. In this way, it invites a consideration of the linguistic malleability implicit in the fleshly chiasm that binds the viewer to the artwork.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Alberta, Canada

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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