Capturing Aesthetic Experiences With Installation Art

Matthew Pelowski, Helmut Leder, Vanessa Mitschke, Eva Specker, Gernot Gerger, Pablo Tinio, Elena Vaporova, Till Bieg, Agnes Husslein-Arco

Installation art is one of the most important and provocative developments in the visual arts during the last half century and has become a key focus of artists and of contemporary museums. It is also seen as particularly challenging or even disliked by many viewers, and—due to its unique in situ, immersive setting—is equally regarded as difficult or even beyond the grasp of present methods in empirical aesthetic psychology. In this paper, we introduce an exploratory study with installation art, utilizing a collection of techniques to capture the eclectic, the embodied, and often the emotionally-charged viewing experience. We present results from an investigation of two pieces, both part of Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition “Baroque, Baroque” held at the Belvedere museum in Vienna. These were assessed by pre- and post-viewing questionnaires focusing on emotion, meaning-making, and appraisals, in tandem with mobile eye tracking to consider viewers’ attention to both installed artworks and/or to the museum environment. The data showed differences in participants’ emotional states, appraisals, and visual exploration, which together paint a picture of the aesthetic reactions to the works. These differences also showed how viewers’ appraisal strategies, meaning making, and physical actions facilitated relatively more or less deep engagement with, and enjoyment of, the art. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for museum studies, art education, and theory in empirical aesthetics.

Department of Cognition, Emotion, and Methods in Psychology, Department of Art History
External organisation(s)
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Montclair State University, City University of New York, Queens College, Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg, Webster Vienna Private University
Frontiers in Psychology
Publication date
Peer reviewed
Austrian Fields of Science 2012
501001 General psychology, 501011 Cognitive psychology, 604004 Fine arts
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