Dorothea von Hantelmann: The Experiential Turn

FOUND ON Walker Art Center: On Performativity. Living Collections Catalogue. Volumen 1. Minneaplis/MN.us 2014.

Preparing for my lecture at the SKOPJE LIGHT ART DISTRICT conference on May 31, 2019, I choose to focus on “The Experiential Turn” which is one of the key aspects for artists working with physical light. Based on a different cluster of observations, Berlin-based art historian Dorothea von Hantelmann suggested in 2014 to include “experience” as an artistic medium that has been introduced in artistic research and production since the 1960s.

… A concern with an artwork’s effects on the viewer and with the situation in which it takes place has indeed become a dominant feature of contemporary art since the 1960s. Although I am aware that a new notion will cause new problems, I want to suggest the experiential turn as a term that might be more appropriate and useful to describe these ongoing tendencies in contemporary art.

The competing hypothesis, then, would be that for a few decades visual art has increasingly turned toward the production of experiences. What does this mean? Every artwork produces some kind of (aesthetic) experience. But as I would like to argue, from the 1960s onward, the creation and shaping of experiences have increasingly become an integral part of the artwork’s conception. A 1960 Minimal installation by Robert Morris hardly produces meaning—if one understands meaning in the traditional sense as something that is located within the object and needs to be “read” or “discerned” by a viewer. It certainly produces an experience, though, in the way that it relates to the space and to the viewer’s body. Referring to works such as Bruce Nauman’s corridors and reflecting on their tactile-kinesthetic involvement of the viewer, art historian Oskar Bätschman introduced the term “experience shaper,” a notion that could easily be applied to a variety of contemporary artworks. Daniel Buren, for example, speaks of his works as “exemplary experiences,” and in the 1990s an entire generation approached the experiential dimension of art, in works such as Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster’s experiential spaces and Rirkrit Tiravanija’s staged intersubjective experiences. What happened? How could “experiences” become something like an artistic medium in contemporary art? How are experiences created, shaped, and reflected in artworks, and how do they produce meaning? … Find the full text here >>