Keywords: aesthetic experience, politics, public, contemporary art, Ranciere, Dewey, Leddy
The adjectives we keep using during the discussions about perception and experience of contemporary art are in a wide range. They reflect both positive and negative senses we get. Didactic, disturbing, cheap, shallow, repulsive or poetic, transformative, magical, impressive, subtle, ingenious, strong, or as a more common reaction: beautiful. Even though it is perfectly natural, something that someone find “beautiful” will be not beautiful for someone else, since appreciating art is deeply subjective, I got curios about the reason that makes public like or not like a contemporary artwork in public space.
Space and medium is closely relevant to the experience. As Jacques Ranciere pointed out, it’s not simply an instrument of art. It is the specific materiality that defines art’s essence. When it is literature or music it is possible to make art without politicize it while offering a unique experience like Pessoa did with his poetry. However in visual arts, space as a part of the artwork, reflects its spatial character to work. That is why it is still possible to put a completely meaningless sculpture to an art gallery which is designed to have no character yet it would automatically be an artwork since gallery is a space to collect “art”. But is it possible for same sculpture to stay meaningless in a public square where people can physically interact with it and receive it as a part of their everyday experience? Is it possible for something meaningless to keep being an artwork? Can meaninglessness and transformative experience survive together in a public space? Is it possible aesthetisize the political art in public space? Is it possible to write a poem through visual arts in public space?
Baumgarten defined aesthetic; a theory of aistheta, of things perceived, and of sensate thinking. In her book Çoğul Estetik, Jale Nejdet Erzen explaining the factors that effect our perception of art starting from the 19th century. Even though some of the explanations are still valid since then like cultural, psychological or biological, new approaches and perspectives emerge everyday. What I want to focus is contemporary “everyday” aesthetics.
According to John Dewey, the quality of aesthetic experience is unity. It must pursue the fulfillment or completition of an object, or event so that the experience is presented in an integral way . However Tom Leddy adds something else to that perspective: “the ordinary qua ordinary is uninteresting or boring and only becomes aesthetic when transformed” and affects that transformation through the notion of “aura”. To him, aura is not an aesthetic property but an experience of an object as “having the quality heightened significance in which it seems to extend beyond itself”. He defends we need to experience an object –or event in Deweyian sense- as (i) being somehow greater than itself, (ii) as having a surrounding “glow”, and as seeming more real and alive.
Rancier on the other hand took the notion of aesthetic a step further by thinking it within the scope of contemporary art and come up with a new notion “politics of aesthetics”. He use the phrase “community of sense” in his article and defined it “as a frame of visibility and intelligibility that puts things or practices together under the same meaning which shapes thereby a certain sense of community. A community of sense is a certain cutting out of space and time that binds together practices, forms of visibility, and pattern of intelligibility. I call this cutting out and this linkage a partition of sensible.” Ranciere doesn’t specifically cover the public art and interaction yet he refers it when saying “Art and politics, in fact, are contingent configurations of the common that may or may not exist. Just as there is not always art (though there is always music, sculpture, dance and so on), there is not always politics (though there are always forms of power and consent). Politics exists in specific communities of sense. It exists as a dissensual supplement to the other forms of human gathering, as a polemical redistribution of objects and subjects, places and identities, spaces and times, visibilities and meanings.”  I think that is what makes the “mere experience” “an experience” as Dewey said and maybe when contradictions come together poems can emerge in public space.
 Ranciere, J. (2008) What Medium Can Mean?
 O’Doherty, B. (2010) Beyaz Küpün İçinde
 Erzen, J.N. (2011) Çoğul Estetik
 Dewey, J (1934) Art as Experience
 Leddy, T. (2012) The Extraordinary in the Ordinary: The Aesthetics of Everyday Life
 Ranciere, J. (2009) Contemporary Art and the Politics of Aesthetics