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Regular version of the site

Article

Beyond Decoding: Art Installations and Mediation of Audiences

Music and Arts in Action. 2014. Vol. 4. No. 2. P. 52-73.

This article uses case studies of visual art installations to elaborate an alternative view of the way art is experienced by museum and gallery visitors. In particular, it is argued that the orthodox and influential decoding perspective in the sociology of art overlooks the situated and experiential nature of art, especially when art takes the form of installations. In order to study experiences of art installations, this article draws on recent developments in cultural sociology and the sociology of music to reintroduce the idea of mediation into thinking about and with art. A focus on processes of mediation allows me to address the communications and interactions which emerged at the particular art installation under consideration here, a piece called PharmaConcert by Evgeniy Chertoplyasov that was displayed at the Winzavod Art Centre in Moscow in 2011. Detailed analysis of the forms of interactions at this exhibition shows that as audience members perceive artworks, they transform abstract expectations of artworks into a series of specific and situated actions. Simultaneously, other mediation processes reassemble the audiences through shared experience of contested meanings of an artwork. The paper challenges the orthodox sociological notion of what an ‘audience’ is and instead sees audiences as an emerging form of communication and interaction specific to a particular artwork / installation.