The Zone of Interaction: Investigating the Relationship Between Visual Art and Its Audience

Janine Fenton Sager
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A research model based on direct observation is implemented to study the behaviour of participants involved in the viewing of contemporary visual art. This research has been undertaken in an effort to understand and improve the viewing experience. Because visual art is the record of humanities engagement with issues and ideas pertinant to those viewing it, the relationship between art and its audience is an interactive one. To capture subliminal behaviours which reflect the true nature of response within this field of study, the subjects under scrutiny must be unaware, and thus unaffected by the techniques employed by the observer. Technological development has created an opportunity to achieve this specific form of observation, by not only developing miniature devices for ease of concealment, but also through constant exposure to recording devises, both commercial and domestic, the public in general has developed an acceptance of, or an indifference towards, the presence of such equipment. These factors enable this research to be performed within ethical boundaries while maintaining the integrity of the research model.
The specific zone or space in which this research is undertaken is clearly defined in order to engage with the relevance that zone has on the behaviour of its occupents. Foucault's theory of a heteratopia existing as a particular space for a particular set of uses unique to that space, allows the zone of interaction to be recognised and thus forms the foundation for this paper.

Keywords: Social Engagement, Observation Practices, Ethnology, Reading Cultural Community, Defining Space
Stream: Knowledge and Technology
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Janine Fenton Sager

Candidate for Doctor of Philosophy, College of Arts, Education and Sosial Sciences
Department of Humanities, The University of Western Sydney


Graduated Bachelor of Fine Arts, with Distinction, in 2002, awarded Dean's Medal for Academic Excellence 2003 and Bachelor of Arts (Honours) 2004. Commenced PhD under an Australian Postgraduate Award (with stipend) 2005.
Presently I am a tutor for Media and Visual Cultures at the University of Western Sydney (UWS), am on the curatorial board for 'Western Front/ Contemporary Art from Western Sydney' and am curator for two of the eight galleries involved in this project which culminates in an exhibition involving all these galleries simultaneously in July this year. It is the first of its kind being undertaken in this city. I have also been curator of several exhibitions including guest artists from Singapore and a project which is touring nationaly. Published "Connecting Audiences with Art" in Vehicle: Contemporary Visual Arts, no. 9 / 2003 a Singaporian Art journal. I have written and produced several exhibition catalogues and written articles for regional newspapers. My visual art is exhibited in Aaustralia, Singapore and North America. It is with this strong background in the field of visual arts that my research is able to connect theory, practice and implementation.

Ref: T06P0074