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Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01255

Capturing aesthetic experiences with Installation Art: An empirical assessment of emotion, evaluations, and mobile eye tracking in Olafur Eliasson's 'Baroque, Baroque!'

 Matthew Pelowski1*,  Helmut Leder1,  Vanessa Mitschke1, 2, Eva Specker1,  Pablo P. Tinio3,  Gernot Gerger1, Elena Vaporova1, Till Bieg1 and Agnes Husslein-Arco4
  • 1Fakultät für Psychologie, Universität Wien, Austria
  • 2Department of General Psychology II, Universität Würzburg, Germany
  • 3Department of Educational Foundations, Montclair State University, United States
  • 4Belvedere Museum Vienna, Austria

Installation art is one of the most important and provocative developments in the visual arts during the last half century and has become a key focus of artists and of contemporary museums. It is also seen as particularly challenging or even disliked by many viewers, and-due to its unique in situ, immersive setting-is equally regarded as difficult or even beyond the grasp of present methods in empirical aesthetic psychology. In this paper, we introduce an exploratory study with installation art, utilizing a collection of techniques to capture the eclectic, the embodied, and often the emotionally-charged viewing experience. We present results from an investigation of two pieces, both part of Olafur Eliasson's exhibition "Baroque, Baroque" held at the Belvedere museum in Vienna. These were assessed by administered pre- and post-viewing questionnaires focusing on emotion, meaning-making, and appraisals, in tandem with mobile eye tracking to consider viewers' attention to both installed artworks and/or the museum environment. The data showed differences in participants' emotional states, appraisals, and visual exploration, which together paint a picture of the aesthetic reactions to the works. These differences also showed how viewers' appraisal strategies, meaning making, and physical actions facilitated relatively more or less deep engagement with, and enjoyment of, the art pieces. The results are discussed in terms of their implications for museum studies, art education, and theory in empirical aesthetics.

Keywords: Museum study, aesthetic emotion, mobile eye-tracking, installation art, Art perception

Received: 03 Feb 2018; Accepted: 29 Jun 2018.

Edited by:

Nadia Bianchi-Berthouze, University College London, United Kingdom

Reviewed by:

Ursula Beermann, Universität Innsbruck, Austria
Michal P. Muszynski, Université de Genève, Switzerland  

Copyright: © 2018 Pelowski, Leder, Mitschke, Specker, Tinio, Gerger, Vaporova, Bieg and Husslein-Arco. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: PhD. Matthew Pelowski, Fakultät für Psychologie, Universität Wien, Wien, Austria, mattpelowski@yahoo.com