Art and Presence

Research on Presence

An artwork can take you by surprise. You might walk around a museum, look at the works one by one and then suddenly catch sight of a particular painting in the corner of the room. A stranger’s portrait can make you forget the time and place while a museum’s architecture and atmosphere can give you goosebumps. Some people’s experience of a painting or a sculpture is like an infatuation which you keep coming back to, while others travel a long way to visit a specific place.

Faaborg Museum and the University of Southern Denmark have set out to examine these sorts of experiences through a collaborative research project running from 2015 until 2018.

Two researchers are working on the three-year project. Theis Vallø Madsen is investigating ‘presence’ as a theoretical concept and will be publishing his findings in a series of articles. Tina Anette Madsen is researching her doctoral thesis on the museum-goers’ experience of presence and atmosphere taking Faaborg Museum as a case study. The aesthetics of ‘presence’ considered by French philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy, Professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, Dr. Eelco Runia and others is the starting point for the project. In recent years this methodology has received considerable attention from researchers and practitioners across a range of disciplines such as architecture, literature, art and design.

The Art of Presence

Paradoxically some people travel far and wide in search of presence and the architecture, history and location of Faaborg Museum make it an absolutely perfect place for research on ‘presence’. The building’s colourful mosaic floor interacts with the furniture design, its many corridors and its small nooks and crannies. You need to engage your mind as well as your body. In return, museumgoers have the opportunity of accessing the ‘here’ and ‘now’.

The project researchers are using the Museum as a laboratory for presence theory and related theories on atmosphere, ‘affect’ and materiality. Their studies will include experiments with exhibition designs and museum education while also taking part in a wider discussion of the Museum’s role within society.

In 2014 THE VELUX FOUNDATION allocated DKK 2.8 million to Faaborg Museum for the project as part of their major initiative for museums. The project is a collaboration between Faaborg Museum and the Institute for Cultural Studies at the University of Southern Denmark (SDU). Both institutions are also co-funding the project.

Project Leader: Gry Hedin (ghe@faaborgmuseum.dk)
Researchers: Tina Anette Madsen (tam@faaborgmuseum.dk), Theis Vallø Madsen (theis@faaborgmuseum.dk)

News! Conference in 2017

UPDATE: REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN. Please go to www.sdu.dk/en/artpresence