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Touching art: Intimacy, embodiment, and the somatosensory system

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Viewers have a way of using their somatosensory system to create temporary boundary changes that bring them into intimate relationships with art objects. Spectators experience this imaginary fusion when simultaneously attending to their own somatosensory sensations, which occur inside the body, and to qualities of the artwork, which exist in the external world. At such moments viewers reinterpret their somatosensory sensations as a quality of the artwork. When inside and outside are reinterpreted, viewers cross the conventional boundary between self and object. This effect can be illustrated in first person reports and supported by current research in the neurosciences and the humanities.

Keywords: embodiment; empathy; projection; somatic markers; somatosensory system

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Language, Literature, and Communication, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Publication date: March 1, 2002


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