International Journal of Art & Design Education

Building Bridges: Experiential Art Understanding

Volume 18.2   1999

Räsänen, Marjo


When building the bridge of experiential art understanding, the focus is set on the key stone of self in the centre of the arch. Art interpretation as a means of understanding and constructing self is based on the view of self as an unilinear collage of the accumulated life experiences each of us possesses. It is a whole consisting of different roles and relations, cultural identity being a crucial part of it. Self-identity is the experience of distinctness, agency, and continuity that is formed through one’s personal life history. In the model of experiential art interpretation, the process of art interpretation is understood as a series of events where the viewer’s past and present experiences are the basis for constructing new knowledge. The dialectics between personal and social knowledge happens through the different, coequal forms of grasping and transformation. Experiential art interpretation combines strategies from the disciplines of art history, aesthetics, and criticism, and connects them to the experientially-based processes of reflective observation, conceptualization, and production. A central concept in experiential art exploration is transfer, which means the ability to apply knowledge and skills learned in one context to other situations. Transfer leads to increased self-consciousness and metacognitive skills. For transfer to happen, learners have to be able to apply processes of artistic inquiry both in understanding other artworks and in making their own artworks. The second level of transfer has to do with the ability to apply the new ideas and attitudes adopted in the interpretation process in real-life situations.