Topic: Seminar Proposition


A Seminar on aesthetics of reception and the topography of aesthetic encounters


Aesthetic experience is a characteristic way of experiencing situations as structured space and time. In an aesthetic situation, the subject separates a specific space and timespan from the continuum of experiences and distances himself from his surrounding. This situation does not necessarily contain the encounter with an artwork, it can take place in a natural surrounding as well as on a street or within a cultural institution. In other words: having an aesthetic experience means to take up a specific position within a situation. When and how this position is taken by a person is depending on personal sensibility as well as social conventions. We want to investigate these situations in their social dimensions and develop strategies to denote and discuss the net of relations between beholder and surrounding.


Since 2008 Jan-Philipp Possmann and David Weber-Krebs have been engaged as artists and theoreticians in a research project on aesthetics of reception, entitled CATALOG OF SITUATIONS. We have been investigating and creating different aesthetic situations and we have been developing strategies to communicate our experiences in the format of lecture performances or installations. We also have been engaged in an intense correspondence in the form of our internet platform. Through these activities we aim to not only communicate experiences but to create new deep spaces of encounter and reflexivity.


In this seminar/workshop we intend to combine the theoretical and the practical elements of artistic research as we have been pursuing them in CATALOG OF SITUATIONS. We propose to engage the students in a critical analysis of aesthetic theory and art history writing as well as in a creative process of developing a language and a formal toolbox for communicating aesthetic experiences as situations. The seminar therefore requires the participants to equally concentrate on theory and analysis as well as in a creative process of producing new forms.
For this we propose three modules:
1) framework. We want to start by reading together some key texts on aesthetics of perception and some examples of personal accounts of aesthetic encounters. These texts will establish the theoretical framework of the seminar and the terminology (such as space, encounter, interaction, relation, experience).
2) analysis. In a second step we propose a close reading of a number of cultural artefacts – visual arts, performance art, film, literature, pop culture and commercial images – constituting our personal canon of aesthetic situations. We will cover a wide range of historical art forms and genres – from religious art from the pre-enlightenment period to contemporary works – as well as fields that go beyond the world of arts. These different fields will be approached from a perspective of theatre practice and performance theory. The analysis will include personal experiences as made by the students. We will analyse the social space of the situation as well as the poetics of the work. In this second module we plan to ask the students to bring their whole personal background as “aesthetes” and artists into the seminar. The students will be asked to document, share and discuss their personal experiences and emotions.

3) catalog. Thirdly we will present an approach to communicate and discuss aesthetic situations, mainly in the form of lecture performances, which in our view is a form that allows a continuous switch between fascination and distance. We will discuss this approach and develop concrete formats for a number of experiences, resulting in several short lecture performances. The students will be asked to work individually as well as in small groups. The results will form a small catalog that will be added on the web platform of CATALOG OF SITUATIONS.

Addressees and Duration

The seminar is best suited for a relatively small group of participants – maximum 15 people – since the close reading and the development of individual presentations will be very difficult to realise in a larger group. The participants can be either artists or theoreticians. They must be undergraduate students or have some working experience in the arts and theatre fields. A personal history of encounters with and an interest in art and art history is required.

The seminar can be realised either in two or three longer blocks or on a regular, monthly or bi-weekly cycle. Depending on the academic structure, we are able to shorten or enlarge the material and time needed. The two first blocks would take the form of analysis and discussion and the third block would be more directed towards praxis.


We would need a seminar space equipped with a video beamer. For the third module it would be best to have three or four spaces available and some technical support – such as minimal light and audio and video technique.


Basic texts – to be read (in excerpts) and discussed with the seminar:

Umberto Eco: Opera Aperta (The open work, 1962)
Hartmut Böhme: Atmosphären. Essays zur neuen Ästhetik
(Atmospheres, Essays on the new aesthetics, 1995)

Georges Didi-Hubermann: Ce que nous voyons, ce qui nous regarde. (1992)
Brian O'Doherty: Inside the White Cube (1986)
John Dewey: Art as Experience (1934)
Walter Banjamin: Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner technischen Reproduzierbarkeit (The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, 1936)