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How to "see" with the whole body

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While their work is not explored, this article is indebted to Maurice Merleau-Ponty's and John Dewey's theories about perception and embodiment. In it, I propose that a multi-sensory "whole body" experience - Merleau-Ponty's "lived body" - is engaged in both the making and the viewing of artworks. In two sections, the first exploring practice and the second theory, the prevailing mode of interpreting art works exclusively as representations to be seen and read like linguistic signs is contested. W. J. T. Mitchell's works on images and texts, and Martin Jay's Downcast Eyes are interrogated in order to critique the "eye/mind/image" model of perceiving artworks. Ironically, while desiring to advocate for the power of the visual, both authors still bifurcate mind and body in the making and the viewing experience. This separation not only pervades theories about art in modernity, but is equally present in the postmodern critique of the "enlightenment" project. Embodied interaction is explored in order to discuss the various models of engagement in play in viewing traditional art, new genres, and in relation to electronic art and virtual reality constructions.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Studio art and contemporary theory in the art department of the University of California, Santa Cruz

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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