Francesca Bacci

Embodiment as multi-sensorial space and time perception: some significant experiences in cognitive science and in art museum curatorship

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Keywords: Museum; Curatorship; Embodiement; Multisensoriality.

The question of how museum and art gallery visitors perceive and interact with artworks is of fundamental interest for curatorship and for cognitive scientists. Perhaps the most basic question is how an artwork is perceived in terms of space and time. From a Kantian perspective, space and time form the basis and precursor of perception and cognition, and so our mental constructs of space and time necessarily influence the appreciation of artworks. In this article, we briefly review recent research in cognitive science regarding mental representations of space and time and then consider how these principles can influence the curatorial process. The body and motor action play an important role in defining space, which means that bringing touch and, more broadly, the body more actively into the museum experience can enrich the visitor experience. In addition, cognition unfolds over time, moving from prediction to the present moment to memory for the past. Better understanding these temporal aspects of perception can lead to new curatorial practices. Two case studies, the exhibitions "Sounds for Seeing" (Bolzano, Italy) and "Touch and Collect" (Harvard Art Museum, Cambridge), are described as examples of how it is possible interdisciplinary methodologies for the fruitful exploration of new curatorial paradigms based on these scientific concepts. In summary, cognitive neuroscientific theories regarding our mental construction of space and time can inform the way that digital technologies create new experiences for art viewers.

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