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Paradigms of the Beholder. The Perception of Art in a Global Age: Over Here – Over There

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2024

Peter J. Schneemann*
University of Bern, Switzerland
Peter J. Schneemann, University of Bern, Hochschulstrasse 4, CH-3012, Bern, Switzerland Email:


This article demonstrates how art history investigates the perception of art at a moment when a main axiom of effect and understanding of an object turns out to be variable; the question of the “where?”

Today the old hermeneutical problem of historical distance is replaced with a geographical challenge, namely that of geographical distance. Not only does the beholder travel more extensively than ever, but also the artwork itself, the object of interpretation, shifts from one context to another. Thus, the beholder often does not fit within the original context in which the work was produced and is therefore constantly looking at “the other”.

The author discusses contemporary art and new frameworks of understanding that have become more complex in evoking expectations about the art work as a reference system, as they relate to the beholder’s own position to places far away. Concepts which again imply a universal language of art again (e.g. neuroscience) have to be contrasted with both the artist and the audience’s desire for the specific, the different.

Copyright © ICPHS 2012

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