eMotion is situated in the triangle of inter-relationships between art objects, the viewers of art objects and the context of perception, i.e., the presentation space and its logic. The these elements’ interdependencies have been explained from a myriad of perspectives since the beginning of theoretical work on the presentation of art in museums.
Since the development of idealistic art theory, the relationship between the work of art and the viewer has been receiving special attention. Increasingly the viewer was not only being considered a passive recipient, but rather an active creator of the art experience; the act of perception was no longer seen as being linear and static, but multi-dimensional and dynamic. ˝Becoming art˝ occurs in the moment of perception.
In the discourse about museums, the context of perception – i.e., the presentation situation and its meaning for the relationship between art and the viewer – has had a late entry into the field of view. The first indications can be found when major museums were founded at the end of the 19th Century under curators such as Alfred Lichtwark or John Cotton Dana. They were the first to critically analyze the function and societal purpose of museum institutions as locations for communicating about art. But it took until the end of the German Empire that approaches to reform museums could be developed further. The first to have the courage to turn the theoretical discussions on art and space into reality was the Hannover museum director Alexander Dorner. He integrated the demands of the new art currents and the viewers’ expectations in his revolutionary exhibition concepts in the 1920s.
In the course of the concept of art’s expansion and new cultural agendas, voices were heard that demanded the active exchange between art and the viewer as well as museums’ social involvement. An increased appreciation for communication in museums, and with it a discussion about presentation and architecture in museums, resulted beginning at the end of the 1970s. Orientation towards the visitor and aspects of museum pedagogy and didactic approaches has increasingly determined the design of museums and exhibitions since the 1990s.
The Emotional Aspects of Visiting an Art Museum
In theories of art perception, visiting an art exhibition is described as a cognitive, emotional/ affective or social experience. The emotionality of a visit is influenced by cognitve elements of individual expectations (for example the anticipated utility of a visit, determined by ideas and existing knowledge about art). The increase in museum visits in the Federal Republic of Germany in the last few years (from 99 million in 2000, to 103 million in 2004 to 110 million in 2006) is almost exclusively associated with ˝spectacles˝, with this type of experience. This emotional component of an art museum visit is assumed to be a factor for success in marketing and also in curatorial goals, without ever having been analyzed. The trans-disciplinary approach of our project not only addresses the psychological, sociological and art science questions regarding the phenomenon of ˝experience˝ or ˝emotionality˝, but also the connection between micro-, meso- and macro-structural perspectives and the analysis of sociological, psychological and curatorial hypotheses on the effectiveness of museums.
Using a new methodological approach, the art research project eMotion is a promising way to give present discourse a sustainable impulse.