Conceptual Art and Cognitive Science: A Case Study in Space


Conceptual art and cognitive science have more common ground than is acknowledged. For example, both disciplines are principally engaged in describing and visualizing facts about basic categories of mind (space, objects, language, etc.). Along these lines, conceptual art can inform the cognitive science of abstract concepts. Cognitive scientists studying aesthetics can also learn from conceptual artists to push their research forward. While empirical investigations in aesthetics typically focus on perceptual preferences (i.e., “what is beauty?”), conceptual art often goes deeper ontologically (i.e., “what is art?”). This level of analysis can inform questions regarding the evolution of art and object processing. The present study examines the artwork of Mel Bochner who may have staged the first conceptual art exhibition (1966). Bochner’s work addresses spatial semantics/representation, and anticipates the neuropsychological distinction between categorical and coordinate spatial relations; all while reconsidering what it means for an object to be thought of as art.

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