Frames of Viewing: Perception, Experience, Judgment

In recent years a number of disciplines have returned to the fundamental problem of how body, mind, and culture combine to produce perception and aesthetic experience. Contemporary approaches—from studies of contexts of beholding to measurements of eye movement to theories of the gaze—belong to a rich history of attempts to comprehend perception and its consequences, among them the judgment of certain experiences and objects as aesthetic. This scholar year is devoted to the exploration of attempts, past and present, to understand how art is framed by perception, experience, and judgment.

Innovative work on the history of art has brought to light the performative character of viewing. As often as not, the first audiences for many of the works that now stand or hang in the isolation of the museum did not apprehend them as objects of stationary contemplation. These first viewers were frequently in motion, engaged in collective or ritualized behavior, induced by specific settings and their impact on all the senses to attend to a painting or sculpture in highly selective ways. Through play of light and spatial surprise, buildings themselves orchestrate the attention of viewers. Position, time, and expectation condition what can be seen and held in mind. Since many portable objects have been removed from their first contexts and architecture altered in function, those art historians who aim to reconstruct "the beholder's share" face formidable theoretical and empirical challenges.

How do artworks reinforce or resist the intricate mental habits that govern viewing in a given time or place? What is the relation between the "eye" that is developed for works of art and how we perceive the world more generally? How does this eye vary in regard to painting and sculpture, video and performance? Frames of viewing—be they natural or cultural—are normally invisible to the viewer; how is it that the physical nature of some artworks can make the framing visible? Are the visual media today contributing to the growth of visual intelligence among spectators or simply to their more effective manipulation?

Optical impressions are organized in the brain and made meaningful through associations with previous knowledge. Frames of viewing involve retinal nerve cells and emotional experience, pattern recognizers and learned judgments, the visual cortex and social tradition. Nature and culture operate together in perception, and the study of this operation has been central to art history. Understandings of this operation, of course, have changed; there is a history of perception, and of especial interest to the Research Institute is how this history intersects with the history of art. After a lengthy period when the idea of social construction has seemed all-powerful in the humanities, is it time once again for us to consider the domain of universal human traits hard-wired, as it were, by evolution into the nervous system? Certainly artists have had practical insight into these traits, translating the effects of optical perception into a repertoire of techniques. And some exceptional artists have tested and dramatized the limits of such repertoires. One of the aims of this scholar year will be to open a dialogue between different approaches to perception: the historical, psychological, and physiological.

Scholarship at the Getty Research Institute is directed toward a more comprehensive understanding of the visual arts in a variety of contexts. With our focus on frames of viewing, we will be connecting the arts with the cognitive sciences, history, anthropology, philosophy, film, and media studies—to name only the most obvious of the relevant disciplines. The Research Institute welcomes projects that will illuminate the arts through a focus on perception and experience, or that will illuminate perception and experience through a focus on the arts. The combination of research should enable us to more fully grasp the history of art and the critical judgments through which we construct that history.

Thirty-three scholars and artists have been selected to participate in the Getty Research Institute's 2001–2002 scholar year devoted to the theme "Frames of Viewing: Perception, Experience, Judgment".

Getty Scholars

Mieke Bal is professor of literary theory at the Universiteit van Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Her project explores the contribution of the concept of "framing" to cultural analysis, intertwining theoretical reflections on cultural habits that shape practices of looking at art with experimental inquiries into imaginative and practical possibilities (such as museum exhibitions) that would de-naturalize these practices.

Benjamin H.D. Buchloh is professor of art history in the department of art and archaeology, Barnard College/Columbia University, New York. He will complete his monographic study of the German painter Gerhard Richter, which seeks to establish several frameworks for viewing Richter's art, including his encounters with American and European avant-garde practices, and his negotiation of the dialectics of repression and historical memory in post-war German painting.

Chloe Chard is an independent scholar based in London. Her project is concerned with the Grand Tour during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and the verbal and visual strategies used by travelers in confronting works of art. She pays particular attention to the role of laughter and comedy in the viewing of paintings and sculptures and in the attempts to construct confident and coherent commentary about them.

Charles Harrison is professor of the history and theory of art at the Open University, Oxford, United Kingdom. His project reconsiders the development of modern painting in the west from the 1860s to the 1990s in light of two major constructs: the thematization of the picture plane as a site of self-critical exchange, and the argument that gender should be considered a significant factor in the development and interpretation of modern painting.

John Hyman, fellow in philosophy at the Queen's College, Oxford, United Kingdom, will write a philosophical monograph on the nature of pictorial art. This work, informed by his study of the historical relationship between optics and art theory, will advance a theory of depiction critical of the predominant Cartesian tradition.

Lawrence Kruger is research professor of neurobiology in the School of Medicine of the UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, California. His current projects include historical essays on seventeenth-century comparative neurology, the construction of a Web site for the recent history of neuroscience, and a study of early contributions to multiple frame imaging in France.

Jacqueline Lichtenstein is professor of philosophy at the University of Paris X Nanterre, France. She will analyze how the question of vision, color, and painting was transformed in the second half of the nineteenth century and the new relationship that resulted between spectator and work of art.

Jerry Moore is associate professor of anthropology at California State University, Dominguez Hills. He is interested in the contribution recent research on visual and auditory perception may make to a better understanding of how built environments were experienced by ancient peoples, particularly in Mesoamerica and the Andes.

Deanna Petherbridge is an artist known for pen and ink drawings on paper with architectural, social, and political themes. She was until recently professor of drawing at the Royal College of Art, London. She will investigate the interrelationships among the practice, theory, and history of drawing.

Dennis L. Sepper is professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas, Texas. Among his current projects are a history of modern reconceptions of imagination that eliminated its cognitive uses in favor of fictional-creative ones, and an investigation into the possible foundations for developing a pluralistic philosophy of science that might accommodate both defenders and postmodern critics of science.

Terence Smith is director of the Power Institute, Foundation for Art and Visual Culture at the University of Sydney, Australia. His project seeks to elucidate the development of specifically modern and postmodern structures of seeing (structures analogous to perspective in the Renaissance) through an analysis of some crucial moments in Western art from the late eighteenth century to the present.

Visiting Scholars

Ernst van Alphen is professor of literature at Leiden University, The Netherlands. In exploring the contribution art can make to thought about social issues, he will analyze the means by which selected artists and works of art "do" cultural philosophy.

David Antin is professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and also a poet, critic, and performance artist. Most of his books have been published by New Directions; his current project deals with changing the frame of reference for a theory of modernism.

Hubert Damisch is Directeur d'Etudes at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris. Recent publications in English include The Origin of Perspective (1987; trans. 1994) and The Judgment of Paris (1992; trans.1996). He is the curator of the exhibition "The Dispute of Abstraction," which opened in 2001 at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.

Georges Didi-Huberman is a philosopher and art historian who teaches at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. He will examine the phantasmatic conditions of the efficacy of religious images—such as the holy face or ex votos—as vehicles of empathy in late medieval and Renaissance Italian art.

John Elderfield is chief curator at large at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. His project addresses the crisis in the representation of narrative subject matter in modernist painting. He is concerned in particular with the internalization of narrative within the form of the execution, which effectively reallocated the narrative component of painting to its representation in the perception of the beholder.

Péter Forgács is a history film maker and media artist from Budapest, Hungary. His films include Wittgenstein Tractatus (1992), The Maelstrom (1997), The Danube Exodus (1998), and Angelos' Film (1999). Home movies and amateur film footage serve as the basis of his films, revealing personal views of historical events.

William L. Fox is an independent scholar based in Portland, OR. He was selected by the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a fellow in their Visiting Artists and Writers Program to travel to the Antarctic during the austral summer of 2001-2002. He will work on a history of how the continent has been pictured through cartography, painting, photography, and remote sensing.

Anne Friedberg is associate professor of film studies at the University of California, Irvine. Interested in the visual system of the frame and how the frame transforms that contained within it, she will investigate the history of one particular trope of framing, the window, from Alberti to Microsoft.

Valerie Gonzalez is lecturer in the history of Islamic art and architecture at the Ecole d'architecture de Marseille-Luminy, France. Taking a phenomenological approach to the art of the Alhambra, she will focus on problems of perception raised by the building, and on the aesthetic function of its representational features and geometrical intricacies.

Marian Hobson is a professor in the School of Modern Languages at Queen Mary, University of London. Her project focuses on physiognomy, "têtes de caractère," and theories of portrait painting in the second half of the eighteenth century, and she will also be looking at how character is perceived in contemporary contexts, such as casting practices in film.

Martin Kemp is Professor of the History of Art at Oxford University. He is working on two book projects examining relationships between imagery in art and imagery in science. The first is Seen and Unseen about recurrent themes in imagery from the Renaissance to the present day. The second, The Human Animal, deals with images of animals in humanized terms and animalistic images of humans.

Ladislav Kesner, an independent scholar based in the Czech Republic, is also director of CMS/Lord Culture Consulting in Prague. He will assess the relevance of recent neuroscientific work on perception to contemporary art historical agendas and museum practices. In particular, he is interested in how the perceptual skills of the young affect their patterns of viewing and understanding works of art.

Andrew Parker teaches in the University Laboratory of Physiology at St. John's College, Oxford, United Kingdom. His project will be to examine the classical psychology of shape perception in light of mathematical descriptions of shape and form. He is interested in what computational vision can teach us about the human visual system.

Jean-Claude Schmitt is directeur d'études at the Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris. He will be working on the Getty's collection of medieval manuscripts in preparing a book on the relationships between images and imagination in the Middle Ages.

Mabel O. Wilson is associate professor of architectural design at the California College of Arts and Crafts, San Francisco. Her project focuses on two recently completed museums dedicated to African American culture and heritage-the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, and the Charles Wright African American Museum in Detroit, Michigan-and on the ideological frameworks within which they must sustain themselves.

Pre-Doctoral and Post-Doctoral Fellows

S. M. Can Bilsel is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Architecture at Princeton University. In his doctoral dissertaion, titled "Archaeological Reconstruction: The Original and Its Doubles (Pergamon Museum, 1905-1930)," he addresses the history of architectural reconstructions and their claims to authenticity in light of their modern displacement into the museum.

Melissa Hyde is assistant professor of art history at the University of Florida, Gainesville. She received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1996. She will complete her book "Making Up the Rococo: François Boucher and his Circle in the Age of Enlightenment," which re-frames the terms in which the Rococo has traditionally been discussed, and offers an account of the "gout pittoresque" within the context of elite culture and its politics of gender.

Kajri Jain received her Ph.D. in art history and theory from the University of Sydney, Australia in 1999 and is currently revising her dissertation, "Gods in the Bazaar: The Economies of Indian Calendar Art," for publication. She will expand the theoretical framework of her research as it pertains to the aesthetics of representation and problems of originality, authenticity, and circulation of images.

Michael Lobel received his Ph.D. in history of art from Yale University in 1999 with a dissertation titled "Image Duplicator: Roy Lichtenstein and the Emergence of Pop Art." He is expanding his dissertation into a book and conducting new research on the work of artists concerned with the relation between mechanical reproduction and visual perception, technology, subjectivity, and desire.

Maria Hsiuya Loh
, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of history of art at the University of Toronto, investigates the history of collecting and the development of early modern taxonomies of art. She is researching stylistic appropriation in seventeenth-century painting for her dissertation, "The Negotiation of Venetian Old Master Style and the Economy of Wit in Seventeenth-Century Europe."

Andrew Perchuk is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of history of art at Yale University. In his dissertation "Mapping the Surface: Art and Modernism in Los Angeles, 1962-1972," he examines the perceptual investigations undertaken by a group of artists in Los Angeles, including collaborations with the region's aerospace industry.

Lisa Pon
received her Ph.D. in history of art from Harvard University in 1999. She is researching and writing Printing Pictures/Photographing Prints: Art and Reproduction in Sixteenth-Century Italy and Nineteenth-Century France, an expansion of her dissertation, "Raphael, Dürer, and Marcantonio Raimondi: Drawn, Painted, and Printed Images in the Early Cinquecento."

Museum Guest Scholars

Brigitte Bourgeois is Curator in charge of the Archaeological and Ethnographical Section, Centre de Recherché et de Restauration des Musées de France, Paris, France. During her residency, she researched the Getty Research Institute's archives for references to early- 17th- through 19th-century restorations of ancient sculpture collections, as well as the personal archives of restorers, as part of her ongoing research and planned publication of the restoration philosophies and methodologies of 17th- through 19th-century restorers. She also examined the early restorations of marble sculpture in the museum's collection as well as the 18th- and 19th-century sculpting technique visible in those sculptures.

Margaret Burchenal is Curator of Education, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts. At the Getty she surveyed current research on what students learn through multiple-visit museum programs and analyzed how ongoing involvement with learning in museums affects both students and their teachers. She also planned how most effectively to study both short-term and long-term learning that occurs in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum's multiple-visit programs involving students and teachers in three grades in five neighborhood schools.

Ute Eskildsen is Director, Department of Photography, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany. Eskildsen's project was to seek imagery and information in preparation for a Folkwang exhibition titled Useful, Wild, Sweet and in Museums: Animals Looking at Us, which looks at nature as a cultural phenomenon. Her research ranged from travel photography, agriculture, and advertising to scientific photography, zoos, and contemporary artistic concepts.

Anne D. Hedeman is Associate Professor, Art History Program, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois. At the Getty she worked on the first of a series of books analyzing the impact of the patronage of French notaries and secretaries on the visual culture of late medieval France, from 1365, when the bureaucrats first formed a confraternity in Paris, to 1483, the year of Louis XI's death.

Colta Ives is Curator, Department of Drawings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York. While in residence Ives worked on the catalogue for the first comprehensive exhibition of drawings by Vincent Van Gogh, to be presented at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2004.

Jennifer Montagu is Honorary Fellow, The Warburg Institute, University of London, London, England. Montagu's project was to transcribe and comment on the twenty volumes of Arrighi's accounts that describe the objects and techniques he used during his lifetime.

Jochen Sander is Chief Curator of Paintings, Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. During his stay he worked on a scholarly catalogue and exhibition of Northern Italian paintings before 1550 in the Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie.

Zahira Veliz is a private conservator of paintings in London, England. While in residence she revised her existing publication titled Artists' Techniques in Golden Age Spain in light of new technical information that has become available in recent years.

J. Michael Walton is Professor and Head of the Drama Department and Founding Director of the Performance Translation Centre, University of Hull, Hull, England. Walton's project was to work on "Translating the Classical Play," in which he investigated issues of translation and adaptation of ancient dramatic texts for the contemporary stage, together with production matters raised by the nature of contemporary performance.