Aesthetical, Historical and Social Concepts of Space Experience in the 20th Century

OTKA project nr. 72058, 01 April 2008 – 28 February 2011

The research project, in which first of all students and lecturers of the Institute for Art Theory and Media Studies, for German Studies and for Hungarian Literary and Cultural Studies at the Loránd Eötvös University participated, aimed at exploring the aesthetic modernity and its conditions. The survey shed a light on the essence of modern historicity and its reflections in arts and theory by concentrating not on time experience but rather on the changing experience of space. One of our main goals was partially harmonizing parallel analyses in art theory, philosophy, historiography and cultural studies by deepening their dialogue at our interdisciplinary scientific meetings. Our discussions, the published monographs which stem from foreign language literature on space experience, and the case studies which resulted from our research activities focused on issues of the history of science: by integrating different disciplines we tried to maintain a critical distance from questions which mainly appear as landmarks of current research initiatives in cultural studies. The positive value of this approach can primarily be located in the interdisciplinary orientation of the project: due to the methodological eclecticism and capacities of cultural studies we were able to situate the different approaches of art theory and historical studies in the framework of cultural history in a wide sense, and to identify their implications for the sociology of culture. In course of exploring the historical transformations of space experience, this integrating function was able to help us to foreground not only the discursive connections and pragmatic value of space images in arts and technology, and cognate medial and thematic aspects of perception, but also the cultural sociological dimensions of the symbolic creation of the historical space.

One of the key points of the research focused on history and art theory was the exploration and presentation of the background of the spatial turn within the tradition of phenomenology. Furthermore, it has been demonstrated that the determinant tendencies of the explanation of spatial experience in current cultural studies and the positive revaluation of performativity and cartography differ from the point of view of philosophical and aesthetical questions in cultural studies around 1900. Thus, we aimed at exposing and re-contextualizing theoretical insights which, in the realm of aesthetics in one form or another, already contained or anticipated the recognition of the medial transmittability and splitting of the world, the ineffaceable and interdependent exposure of the body and the technical media, or the medial codes of the senses and the perception. These insights, which were ascertained by the spatial turn, are inevitable today and preconditions of any concrete interpretation of art. As for the theory and application of the notion of space in history, the confliction of the argumentative and methodological principles of micro- and macro-historical approaches turned out to be utmost productive: we have combined general methodological problems of historiography, on the one hand, with the function of space in organizing everyday life, in spatial manifestations of political rites and cults, in maintaining the relation of the past and the present, on the other, with questions of space usage in political anthropology.

Contact: teller.katalin _at_ btk elte hu