Sciences cognitives et histoire de l’art, une coopération en devenir ?

Cavanagh, Patrick; Freedberg, David A.; Rosenberg, Raphaël; Jolle, Étienne

The desire to understand the functioning of the psyche in relation to the work of art is perhaps as old as this, but it has historically served to veil the process of creation (thus the notion of genius or the evocation of the "golden branch" which distinguishes the artist). It was only with the development of discourse on art in the 18th century, then especially with the rise of experimental psychology in the second half of the 19th century, that we became interested not only in creation but also upon receipt of the work. More recently, the development of neurosciences since the 1960s has led to the hypothesis of a “neuro-aesthetics” (Semir Zeki) then of a “neuro-history of art”, advocated in particular by John Onians. Jean-Pierre Changeux played for France a seminal role of "ferryman" from one bank to the other.

The contribution of neuroscience to the history of art constitutes one of the major aspects of this debate, particularly with regard to its objects and methods. It is a question of taking note of the rise of a new entity, the "image", likely to include that of "work of art", as well as the shift towards a generalized anthropological approach to art. Under these conditions, the history of art itself is questioned: within a debate dominated by reflection on notions appearing, rightly or wrongly, as obsolete (such as that of beauty) or by an institutional approach of art, what can be the contribution of neurosciences to the understanding of the “articity” of art? Its corollary, the notion of “historicity”, seems to mark the border par excellence between the two universes concerned: science would refer to laws of universal value, which would be opposed by humanities marked above all by the notion of context. Today, art and science are both part of a booming knowledge economy, located at the heart of globalization, within which the scientific (in fact, technological) model is dominant. [Etienne Jollet]


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Art History and Archaeology
Published Here
August 24, 2022