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    Experimenting in the Galleries - a performative exploration of the work of Vernon Lee

    Swain, Robert and Burdett, Carolyn (2018) Experimenting in the Galleries - a performative exploration of the work of Vernon Lee. [Artefact]

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    Experimenting In The Galleries by Nicola Baldwin.docx - Published Version of Record

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    Vernon Lee Experimenting Cast sheet 2.11.18.docx - Published Version of Record

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    Abstract

    What does art do to our bodies? This project attempts to find out, guided by an extraordinary Victorian woman who, over one hundred years ago, asked ‘[w]hat is a work of art? What does it do for us, or rather do with us?’ The woman was Vernon Lee (born Violet Paget). Cosmopolitan, lesbian, fiercely intellectual, reading, writing and publishing in four European languages - Lee was an aesthetic theorist. Throughout the 1880s and 1890s she explored the galleries and museums of Florence, Rome, Paris and London with her lover, Kit Anstruther-Thomson, an aristocratic Scottish artist. Kit experienced her body as sharply sensitive to shape and form: standing in front of an upright object, she felt her lungs fill up with air, and the air exhale over a curve; her muscles tensed in concert with planes and lines and angles; a lop-sided shape made her sag, a heavy one made her feet plant down more firmly. Lee, entranced by Anstruther-Thomson’s body, watched it, seeing art. Lee called this process Einfühlung or ‘feeling into’ – a word borrowed from German psychological literature. Lee believed Einfühlung held the key to understanding why art affects us, and why beauty is vital. Einfühlung was translated as ‘empathy’ and Lee became the first writer in Britain to write extensively about it. This performance piece uses Lee’s experimental practices, recorded in Gallery Dairies in which she meticulously charts her experiences of looking at art. With Vernon Lee and Kit Anstruther-Thomson as guides, gallery and museum visitors can construct their own experience of their body and art through drama; explore the body’s unknown territories, and re-think, re-feel, and re-imagine art, beauty and ugliness. Much of our body’s activity takes place automatically, without volition and, often, without consciousness. To focus on a breath can make it feel more difficult. Pleasure and pain intensify the sense of one’s body surfaces, inside and out. Some of us train our bodies, and are surprised to discover spaces and sensations hitherto hidden in layers of muscle and sinew. Vernon Lee believed that all bodies respond to form. Bodily changes induce sensations and emotions that we ‘feel’ reside in the object itself; attributing movement to static lines and surfaces. ‘We are inside them; we have “felt ourselves,” projected our own experience into them’. Carolyn Burdett, Rob Swain and Nicola Baldwin

    Metadata

    Item Type: Artefact
    School: School of Arts > English, Theatre and Creative Writing
    Research Centres and Institutes: Nineteenth-Century Studies, Centre for
    Depositing User: Rob Swain
    Date Deposited: 11 Feb 2019 14:17
    Last Modified: 01 Aug 2019 15:15
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/26162

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