Conference Alert: Making Sense of Art, Making Art of Sense

From the AAH's 'artline' listserv.

Oxford, Friday 27 October – Sunday 29 October

Venue: Science Oxford
1-5 London Place
Oxford OX4 1BD

Conference organizers: Dr. Francesca Bacci, Department of History of Art ,
University of Oxford
Dr. David Melcher, Department of Psychology,
Oxford Brookes University

Sponsors: Institute of Historical and Cultural Research,
Oxford Brookes University
Quest International


The conference brings together scientists, art historians, curators and artists working on the question of the role of the senses in the creation and reception of art. An international group of invited speakers will convene in five sessions on Touch, Audition, Smell and Taste, Vision and Synaesthesia.

The art historical discipline is increasingly oriented towards privileging the visual, both through the inclusion of “visual culture” as a field of study and through its traditional, if criticised, ocularcentic approach. Contemporary art practice, on the other hand, has long begun to explore new multi-sensory ways to reach the public’s consciousness. Psychologists and neuroscientists are demonstrating that all of the senses are inter-related and real-world perceptual experience involves a fusion of information from different sensory modalities (cross modal integration).
As these different disciplines deploy their specific methodologies to uncover the variegated sensory territory, it is profitable and momentous to create an interdisciplinary platform in which knowledge and experience can be shared and capitalized. Empirical scientific research can both inform and be informed by artistic and historical investigations into the nature of the senses.
Some of the issues discussed in this conference may include:

Ø The relationship between the senses
Ø The relationship between sensory experience and artistic representation
Ø The predominance of visual experience in human perceptual consciousness, and the scientific foundation, or lack thereof, of the current interpretative model of ocularcentrism
Ø The mechanisms of cross-modal integration and interference
Ø The physical mechanisms that underlie each sense and the brain processing of sensorial input
Ø The role of the senses in attention and memory
Ø Art and cultural history of the senses
Ø Production and reception of non-visually centred artworks

Answers to these questions are of intrinsic interest, but they also have a wider significance, having the potential to generate new theoretical premises for the investigation of the creation, reception and display of art.

Despite the significance of this topic and the numerous diverse individual approaches to its study, there is only a very limited interdisciplinary literature on art and the senses. One methodologically novel aspect of this conference is the fact that the pair of speakers for each session (one from the sciences and one from the humanities) will interact before and during the meeting to create a productive interdisciplinary dialog. The essays presented in this conference will form the first book on “Art and the Senses”.

For more info, including the programme, see the conference webpage:


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