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On the experience of encountering art in museum spaces : an inquiry with Gilles Deleuze's concepts of desire and assemblage Berard, Marie-France


Framed by the theoretical concepts of assemblage and desire from philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and his collaborative writings with psychoanalyst Félix Guattari (Deleuze and Guattari, 1983, 1987), this study inquires into the qualities and productive potential of the art encounter in a gallery setting. The study brings together my practice in the field of art museum education, and my interest in the art encounter to inquire what the art encounter does. Thinking with Deleuzian concepts enacts a view of the art encounter as a milieu of experimentation where affects move a body to create assemblages, connections with things, human and non-human bodies, expressions, qualities, ideas, spaces. Assemblages allow desire (as a force) to circulate; desiring-assemblages move bodies to produce connections with other human or non-human entities, thoughts, they produce subjectivation as a mode of existence. For Deleuze, one does not 'have' an experience of an artwork or exhibition detached against the background of life; experience is a milieu which contributes to actually making life. My study inquires how working within a philosophy conceived in terms of relationality, connections, flows and multiplicity (rather than fixed identities) enact a view of the art encounter as a milieu of immanent ethics. By immanent ethics, Deleuze means that encountering increases the potential for new connections, it can actualize the possibilities already in life. The experience of encountering art is inviting one into experiences of living. This post-qualitative study followed a process of research as assemblage formed by: the research site at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and the dynamic constellation of interconnected objects, bodies, ideas such as my field notes, photographs, the writing of personal narratives of my encounterings in the gallery space, and scholarly texts. Throughout the research process, two guiding questions remained present: 1) With the production of data in autobiographical fieldnotes, how does Deleuze’s concepts of desire and assemblage help me inquire about my art encounters, and what insights can I bring forth on the art encounter? 2) In what ways does thinking with Deleuzian concepts enlarge received discourses in art education and museum education about the art encounter within the art museum?

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