Choreographer Andreea Novac’s recommendation from the CNDB Media Library: The Perfect Spectator

We invite artists who cross the threshold of the CNDB Media Library to tell us a few words about the materials they have chosen and to share with us the ideas that stayed with them. Choreographer Andreea Novac chose “The Perfect Spectator”, a book about the way we perceive art.

What happens when a spectator encounters a work of art? How does the viewer understand its “meaning” and how can this process of interpretation, which often takes place at a subconscious level, beyond language, be understood and articulated? These are the questions from which the book chosen by Andreea Novac starts.

Regarding the choice she made, the choreographer told us the following:

Artistic reception was, more or less explicitly, a constant in the works we have proposed so far, as we became aware of the fact that the relationship between the spectator and the artistic product goes beyond the simple act of watching. The verbs used to designate the spectator’s interaction with an artistic product have also changed, moving to participate, to accompany, to experiment, to transform, to intervene, etc.

“The Perfect Spectator” has nothing to do with an ideal spectator, but rather offers ways and tools to understand, lead, mobilize and direct artistic perception and experience, approached from both directions (from stage to audience and vice versa).

Andreea Novac

Author Janneke Wesseling, professor of visual arts at Leiden University in the Netherlands, addresses the relationship between the spectator and the art object by analysing the aesthetics of reception, with the central premise that contemplating art is a matter of interaction between an active work of art and an active observer. Wesseling writes about these things both from a personal position, starting from her own encounters with art objects, and from her professional experience, studying and writing about art. At the meeting between the two perspectives, she arrives at a new theoretical framework for seeing and contemplating art.

Andreea Novac selected some excerpts from “The Perfect Spectator” – ideas that resonated with or remained with her after reading, and shared them with us. You can read them below:

“The artist may not necessarily understand his own art. His perception is neither better nor worse than that of others”. – Sol LeWitt

“There is not a one to one relationship between an artist’s intention and a spectator’s interpretation. (…) It by no means entails the exact transference of knowledge and experience from artist to spectator. (…) The spectator, be she uninformed or well – informed, is asked to disregard her expectations and preconceived ideas about what art is about. Our expectations of the art work stand in the way of experiencing it.”

“Two kinds of spectators: eye and body.”

“The art work is embodied or materialized thinking.”

“The concept of spectatorship that elevates sight above all other senses, a spectatorship of a disembodied subject, is not relevant to postmodern art with its emphasis on a simultaneity of perspectives and experience of the work with the entire body.”

“The art work exists and lives in the contemplation by the spectator and in the ever-changing interpretation. The work’s maker does not know all the possible layers of meaning and interpretation. Had he known them, he would have had no reason for making the work. The art work is not the ultimate goal, not an end product of the artist’s thinking. It is an intermediate stage, a temporary pause, a frozen moment in a thinking process. As soon as the artist has placed the work in the world, his activity concerning that specific work is a thing of the past. At that point, the spectator, the audience becomes involved in the work.”

The book “The Perfect Spectator” is available in the CNDB Media Library. You can access the entire books and videos collection by clicking here. If you are interested in any of the titles, write an email to [email protected]

The series of recommendations continues!

CNDB media library has over 400 books waiting for you to discover them as well as a whole video collection of works, dance films and video art. You will find titles about the history and theory of dance, critical thinking, performance theory, artist books, feminist studies as well as many periodicals, magazines and catalogues of contemporary dance festivals.

CNDB Media Library: Irina Marinescu recommends The Mind-Body Problem

Irina chose The Mind-Body Problem, by Jonathan Westphal, as she is interested in philosophical concepts “about the meeting place between body and consciousness, between palpable and impalpable”. While reading it, Irina also shares with you a microtonal, musical recommendation.

Philosophers from Descartes to Kripke have struggled with the glittering prize of modern and contemporary philosophy: the mind-body problem. The brain is physical. If the mind is physical, we cannot see how. If we cannot see how the mind is physical, we cannot see how it can interact with the body. And if the mind is not physical, it cannot interact with the body. Or so it seems.

“The mind is a non physical thing

The body is a physical thing

The mind & body interact

Physical and nonphysical things cannot interact

Of the 4 propositions, 3 can be true at the same time. If they are, the 4th is false.”

The Mind-Body Problem, Jonathan Westphal 

In this book the philosopher Jonathan Westphal examines the mind-body problem in detail, laying out the reasoning behind the solutions that have been offered in the past and presenting his own proposal. The sharp focus on the mind-body problem, a problem that is not about the self, or consciousness, or the soul, or anything other than the mind and the body, helps clarify both problem and solutions.

Westphal outlines the history of the mind-body problem, beginning with Descartes. He describes mind-body dualism, which claims that the mind and the body are two different and separate things, nonphysical and physical, and he also examines physicalist theories of mind; antimaterialism, which proposes limits to physicalism and introduces the idea of qualia; and scientific theories of consciousness.

Qualia is also the notion that interested Irina Marinescu for some time, so she extracted the following excerpt from the book:

“The term “qualia” has an interesting and one might say chequered history. In the past the phrases and words “cogitationes”, “ideas”, “experiences”, “sense data”, “qualities”, “perceptions”, “sensations”, “properties of sensations”, “percepts”, “raw feels”, “nomological danglers”, “phenomenal properties”, and “qualitative properties” have been used to try to get at something approximately like the same idea.
The confused history of the different terminologies is enough to alert the thoughtful student of recent philosophy to the fact that all is not as it should be in the kingdom of the qualia.”

The Mind-Body Problem – Jonathan Westphal 

Finally, Westphal examines the largely forgotten neutral monist theories of mind and body, held by Ernst Mach, William James, and Bertrand Russell, which attempt neither to extract mind from matter nor to dissolve matter into mind. Westphal proposes his own version of neutral monism. This version is unique among neutral monist theories in offering an account of mind-body interaction.

The book The Mind-Body Problem, by Jonathan Westphal is available in the CNDB Media Library. With a click here you can access the entire CNDB book collection, as well as video. If you are interested in any of the titles, we invite you to write an email to [email protected]

Who is Irina Marinescu?

Irina fell in love with contemporary dance in 2009. Since then, she has studied various dance practices ​​and forms of the performing arts. She worked for CNDB, participated in the Academy of Cultural Management 2019 and is currently an independent artist and producer, being one of the founding members of the Developing Art association.

She collaborates with artists from different backgrounds to create contexts where authentic connections, experiment and emotion are the main ingredients. Find out more about Irina Marinenscu’s practice in the video below.

The series of recommendations made by artists from the CNDB Media Library continues!

Music recommended by Irina, as background while reading the book