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Social Saturday with Rebecca Uchill

Art As Experience: Another Look

Eighty-five years after the publication of John Dewey’s Art as Experience, art and its institutions operate within a rampant experience economy. Production of experience, preservation of experience, and revivification of experience are all within the standard purview of curatorial and conservation departments. Focusing on the tangled relationship between experiencing and looking, Rebecca Uchill will speak about her recent research into modernist philosophies of “art experiences” and her curatorial work bringing artist-produced experiences onto the printed page of Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense (MIT Press, 2016).

From Jia Hui Lee, “Experiencing a ‘planary jolt’” The Senses and Society 13-1, 2018:
Reading and handling the book is an experience in itself. The hardcover of the book is heat-sensitive so that it responds to the warm touch of the hand and turns a hot pink color to reveal a sketch by the artist Olafur Eliasson. The cover assumed different hues of fuchsia and olive as I read the book in the fresh air of a mountain and later, in the controlled environment of a plane. The endpapers, conceived by Carsten Höller, present dazzling black and white stripes infused with synthesized human pheromones… This, then, is a book that begs to be felt, smelled, handled, and heard, a “collective experiment in speculative esthetics” (7), and, I would add, of scholarship, both in its form and function.

Image / Illustration of Adelbert Ames Jr., “Variations of appearances of plane vertical surfaces” experiment. Dartmouth Eye Institute archives, Dartmouth College Library. Courtesy of Adelbert Ames III.

Rebecca Uchill is an art historian and curator whose work focuses on the institutional conditions for art production, display and dissemination. She is Editor-In-Chief of Art Journal Open, a publication of the College Art Association. Uchill was previously Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow with the Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) at MIT. She is co-editor of Being Material, a CAST volume to be published by MIT Press in October, 2019, and was co-editor, with Caroline A. Jones and David Mather, of the first CAST publication, Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense (MIT Press, 2016), for which she was also the curator of its many multi-sensorial artist entries. Uchill has worked as a curator and curatorial consultant at institutions including the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University, the Decordova Sculpture Park and Museum, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA, and was co-founder of the event-based-research/curatorial collective Experience Economies. She is on the faculty of Art Education, Art History and Media Studies at UMass Dartmouth.

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