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Art means something to us : building bridges between artwork and families through Hans Georg Gadamer's Hermeneutics Estrada, Ursula Tania


This study proposes the use of philosophical hermeneutics as a theoretical basis to develop interpretive strategies for people who have little or no knowledge about art. The study inquired into the interpretive processes of a group of children and parents who attended a Museum Education program based on Gadamer’s hermeneutic circle and on his conception of art, which was carried out at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City. The study found that the use of Gadamer’s hermeneutics helped participants develop a careful and reflective observation of artwork; participants were able to retain in their memories the general composition and details of paintings for prolonged periods of time. Some participants developed an understanding of artwork based on their own horizons of understanding, which led them to reflect on certain issues such as ethical behaviour, social justice, social equality, coexistence, tradition and modernity, among others; participants’ interpretive processes also led to self-understanding. Through the application of Gadamer’s hermeneutics, participants developed notions of art as something that has a message that needs to be understood, and as something related to everyday life. It also led some participants to change their perceptions of art and museum visits, making them less unusual and more meaningful for them. The inclusion of parents in the interpretive process allowed for interpretation to be enriched through the multiplicity of horizons of understanding that came into play during group conversations, and allowed for the development of a small community of interpreters. Including parents in the process also proved to develop in some of them an interest to foster their own and their children’s interest in art. The study also found that these outcomes of the use of Gadamer’s hermeneutics in the program are limited by a participant’s verbal, writing and manual abilities: participants with less developed abilities achieved a careful and reflective observation of artwork, but were unable to develop an interpretive project.

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