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Material Anamnesis and the Prompting of Aesthetic Worlds: The Psycho-Historical Theory of Artworks

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Many scholars view artworks as the products of cultural history and arbitrary institutional conventions. Others construe art as the result of psychological mechanisms internal to the organism. These historical and psychological approaches are often viewed as foes rather than friends. Is it possible to combine these two approaches in a unified analysis of the perception and consciousness of artworks? I defend a positive answer to this question and propose a psycho-historical theory, which argues that artworks are historical and material artefacts designed to prompt mental activities and elicit the conscious experience of aesthetic worlds. My argument suggests that the material components of artworks--termed their ‘material substrata'--are crucial mediators between historical contexts and the mental activities elicited by the perception of artworks.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre de recherches sur les arts et le langage (CRAL), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), 96 Bd Raspail, 75006, Paris, France, Email: [email protected].

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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