The Analysis of the Evolution of Perception in New Art Media by the Phenomenological Approach of Merleau-Ponty

Medium as an interface to convey thoughts and information is a broad concept that has been changed along with the evolutions of each period; therefore, it is difficult to have a comprehensive definition of it. The passage of time and recent developments in art history has transformed the meaning of media. In contemporary art, media have been merged, their borders have been faded, and new forms have been emerged. The question is how the audience communicates with the new types of art, and how the perception of the artwork becomes possible? This paper aimed to explain the developments of art perception in new artistic media with the phenomenological approach of Merleau-Ponty. It tries to examine the meaning and the position of the medium in art and show how dominant art movements in each period have affected the boundaries of media in art. This research represents a descriptive-analytical study of the texts and data about the evolution of art perception in new art media. Different types of art, such as painting, sculpture and photography, have their own territory of expression determined by the media through which the themes of an art form are recognized. Medium demarcation became apparent in modernists’ theories. Against the modernist approaches to achieve pure art, with the express advances in technology in the 20th century, the concept of media in art became meaningless, so that the target audience in the new media art is faced a deformation of media. One of the features of new media art is late understanding which can be interpreted as altering the perception of the audience of the new media art. In the process of changing the concept of medium, several changes occurred in the perception of the target audience. Despite the changes made in the course of art history, explaining the concept of media in the art can be explored with the concept of “perception” by Merleau-Ponty. Husserl's phenomenology impacted Merleau-Ponty's conception of sensory perception. He focuses on immediate and direct contact with the world and strives to interpret it philosophically. In describing perception, for Merleau-Ponty, the evolution of media perception can be examined based on the audience's experience of perception. From his approach, the principle percept has been replaced by experience in understanding the meaning of the media in art. In the new art media, the target audience misplaces its connection with the work of art. In Merleao-ponty’s phenomenology, one must re-discover the perceived world through modern art and philosophy. His doctrine is that the objects of the world emerge to us based on our perceived experience of that phenomenon. He holds this view to be right about artworks as well. In other words, the meaning of an artwork arises through the experience. The meaning of an artwork does not come from the representation of the work, rather, through the process of perception of the work. In art history, various art forms have been instrumental in communicating and perceiving art, however, in contemporary art, the media has been de-materialized and here is the level in which experience -in the concept of “perception”- comes to support the art. In order to understand the multiple and contradictory features of the media, the audience strives to avoid using traditional tools in art. In Merleau-Ponty’s approach, the audience needs exposure: They need experience in order to perceive rather than categorizing and limiting the art, and the meaning of the artwork is what is gained through the audience experience. Descriptive phenomenology as the approach of the article includes the exploration, analysis, and direct description of the medium. This approach disregards previous preconceptions. An approach that is consistent with the characteristic of contemporary art. This research is a descriptive-analytic review of documents and data that explains the process of transformation of the audience's perception of artworks into new artistic media. The results show that by changing the function of media in art, the experience of perceiving the work of art through the media is not possible. The art media, as the communication and artistic perception tool, has been dematerialized in new art media, and the audience with its own perceptive experience completes the work of art.

Article Type:
Research/Original Article
Journal of Jelve-y Honar, No. 50, 2019
65 - 74  
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