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Title: From decoding to enacting : an ethnographic study of the social relations at exhibition sites : a contribution to the "new sociology of art"
Author: Farkhatdinov, Nail
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 8880
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis is a sociological exploration of emergent social relations at art exhibition venues. It focuses on the experience of art which the dominant “decoding” metaphor fails to describe conceptually and empirically. To grasp the interactional and emergent character of interaction with art, I constructed a framework that defined audiences as sets of emerging social relations. Building on the concepts of experience (Merleau-Ponty), enchantment (Gell), multiplicity and enactment (Latour, Mol and others), I emphasise the situated and embodied nature of art experience. The study draws on a series of ethnographic observations at the exhibition sites of a number of Moscow art institutions. It is supplemented with unstructured interviews with visitors and art professionals at these venues (artists, curators, wardens etc.). Conceptually, I have suggested a dual social ontology that art establishes in the events of perception. Bringing uncertainty into visitors’ actions, art enables interactions in which visitors establish meanings, and leads to practices that make their art experience organized and less problematic. The thesis examines the ways art experience becomes stable through meaning-making events supported by socio-material relations. These relations enable participants to produce recognizable actions. The process of meaning-making at the exhibitions is seen not as a direct communication of pre-given aesthetic meanings (as the decoding perspective would assume), but rather is understood as consisting of multiple instances of micro-level discoveries which mediate an “enchanting” form of art experience. Enchantment engenders the social relations of expertise which visitors practically achieve in their interaction with material objects and through performances of meaningfully recognizable actions. T Though the study mainly focuses on the experience of interactive art installations, I argue that the conceptual considerations and empirical results are relevant to the experience of other forms of art. The thesis is intended to make a contribution to the so-called “new sociology of art”, not just by subjecting the dominant Bourdieu-inspired assumptions about “decoding” to critique, but also by pointing out the conceptual limits of much of the new sociology of art, and pointing towards new conceptual horizons for sociology’s ongoing encounter with matters artistic.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: University of Aberdeen ; College of Arts and Social Sciences ; Open Society Foundation-Europe
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Sociology of art ; Art ; Art and society ; Art ; Modern