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Imagination in the Experience of Installation Art

Project description

Explaining the nature of engagement in installation art

Installation art (IA) gained great popularity in the last decades due to its immersive, participatory approach. IA works are usually built in situ, in a specific space and with many different media. However, how to define IA and the engagement with IA remains under discussion. With the support of the MSCA programme, the IEIA project will fill the knowledge gap and develop the first complete philosophical account related to our engagement with IA while exposing the specific role of imagination and the fictional dimension within it. The research will impact art theory and aesthetics and guide art practitioners. The study’s results will be presented in leading journals and conferences.


Several works by Ernesto Neto present huge, warm-colored, pleasantly smelling Lycra tunnels. They are cases of installation art (IA): the public is supposed to enter the tunnels and interact with the physical environment, experiencing the works from within. Works of IA resemble buildings because they envelop the public, but they differ in that, as with paintings and sculptures, they do not have a sheltering function. This raises a philosophical question: what states of mind are distinctive of our engagement with IA?
The goal of this project is to develop the first full-fledged philosophical account of our engagement with IA, arguing that, typically, the imagination plays a crucial role in it, by pursuing 5 research and innovation objectives: (1) showing that IA prompts imaginings of a specific kind; (2) arguing that IA can be defined in terms of its imagining-arousing function; (3) arguing against the prevalent view that IA doesn't have a representational or fictional dimension; (4) investigating the link between the imaginings aroused by IA, on the one hand, and abstract painting, on the other hand; (5) integrating the proposal within a broader account of fiction.
The project’s goal is relevant to aestheticians and art theorists, because IA dominates contemporary art, and to art practitioners and public, because it can help improve the design, exhibition, and communication of IA.
I, Elisa Caldarola (Philosophy PhD), will carry out the proposed research through investigations in the philosophy of fiction and of art, in art theory, in depiction theory, and the philosophy of mind, working at The Graduate Center, City University of New York (Philosophy Program) under the supervision of Prof. Jonathan Gilmore, and at the Department of Philosophy and Education Sciences, University of Turin, under the supervision of Prof. Alberto Voltolini.
I shall publish 5 papers in top-level journals, present my work at 8 conferences and at outreach events.


Net EU contribution
€ 265 099,20
10124 Torino

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Nord-Ovest Piemonte Torino
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Partners (1)