Subject Seminar Series (1)

For our first seminar we were asked before the lesson to read ‘Beyond Relativism and Formalism- The Empathy Principle’. I found the first few pages difficult to read as it was an academic text but also for the long words like ‘psychophysiological’ (which means the relationship and interaction between mind and body). The pages after that seemed less daunting. After reading it a few times and finding the definition for a few words I sort of grasped the ideas behind it, which was the debate against relativism and formalism. To me Relativism meant that when looking at a sculpture (lets say) you are more drawn to the ideas and narrative behind the work more than the physical appearance. Whereas the formalist approach is purely form and physical characteristics (like size, pattern, and texture and so on). The newest ideas of how we find certain art beautiful then comes from the idea of engaging with it as it has a persona and we relate back from our history and memories, this leads up to the Empathy Principle.

Upon discussing this argument I felt swayed between both, until Ingrid asked us to pick a side of where we found ourselves on the spectrum either relativism or formalism (we couldn’t be on the fence, it was one or the other). I chose to sit on the Relativism side, mainly because as a viewer of an object I tend to relate myself more to the object through memories and experience rather than just the formal elements. We then went into our groups and made up a debate. My idea was that we must be more relativism because of our Human condition where we are emotional and have personal experience. I really enjoyed today’s lesson because it challenged my way of thinking as a maker and made me question how I could alter my decisions in my practice to play along with the idea of aesthetics and how the viewer can relate to them.


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