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Modes of address project

Published: 15 March 2011

Modes of address project

Research Project: Modes of Address in the Pictorial Arts
This research project is a cross-disciplinary collaboration by the Winchester School of Art and Psychology, encompassing the disciplines of Fine Art Practice, Art Theory and Experimental Psychology. Utilising an innovative combination of scientific testing and artistic practice, the project establishes a mechanism for empirical assessment with the aim of enhancing understanding of different modes of address within pictorial artworks, and of how we experience that address as viewers.
The project recognises and seeks better to understand and exploit the potential of science in the investigation of cultural production and the creative process. It focuses on the testing of a specific area of established aesthetic theory and the act of spectatorship itself, with the intention of attaining proof of concept, which can then be utilised to develop further studies of creativity and image functionality.
This research will lead to the novel application of experimental techniques in analytical psychology and the development of new artworks. It is anticipated that the research team will work with major museum partners, and attempt to give broad public access to findings via interactive exhibitions incorporating historical works, new works, and engaging displays of scientific data.

Research Team

  • Dr. Beth Harland, (PI) Reader in Fine Art and Director of the Graduate School, Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton
  • Professor Nick Donnelly, (CI) Head of Psychology and co-director of the Centre for Visual Cognition, University of Southampton
  • Professor Simon Liversedge, co-director of the Centre for Visual Cognition, University of Southampton
  • Mick Finch, Head of 2D, Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London

In March 2011 the team undertook a pilot study, working with the Courtauld Gallery, London, in which experts and novices were tested using eye-tracking equipment.  We recorded viewers' eye movements and assessed their verbal responses to a series of questions in relation to Manet's painting A Bar at the Folies Bergere.  Analysis of the data is currently underway and will lead to the next phase of the project, providing the basis for scientific publications and funding bids that are currently in preparation.


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