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The Perfect Spectator

The Experience of the Art Work and Reception Aesthetics

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Author: Janneke Wesseling
Design: Sam de Groot
Series: vis-à-vis

2016, Valiz | paperback | 256 pp. | 23,5 x 16,5 cm (h x w) | English | ISBN 978-90-80818-50-7

What happens between a spectator and a work of art at the moment of encounter? How do we experience ‘meaning’ (significance) in an art work? How can the process of interpretation be understood and articulated? To address these questions, the author explores the field of reception aesthetics, with its central premise that the contemplation of art is a matter of interaction between art work and observer. The research is focused on unravelling and problematizing the theoretical terminology of the interaction between work of art and spectator, deriving from reception aesthetics as well as from hermeneutics and phenomenology, with the aim of building a new theoretical foundation for this terminology. Additionally, different concepts of the spectator are discussed extensively. Wesseling proceeds from her own personal encounters with art objects, and her professional experience in studying and writing about art, in order to arrive at a new theoretical framework for the contemplation of art works.

Janneke Wesseling is an art critic and director of PhDArts, international doctorate programme in visual art and design, at Leiden University, where she was appointed Professor in the Practice and Theory of Research in the Visual Arts, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University.