An Artwork as a Cultural Object and its Epistemic Specificity: A Reflection on the Hermeneutics of Art

By Levent Kara.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

While artworks are decisive symbolic agents in the making of culture, to see them just as expressions of established culture would be a reductive approach that overlooks the complex relations within different modes of cultural experience. Artworks reflect their socio-historical context not in terms of a one-to-one representation, but in the way they embody determined experiences by actively interpreting social content in their own spatio-temporal modality. The unique spatio-temporal structure of each work of art is also its particular symbolic structure which goes beyond the systems of established significances to articulate experiences which are not yet reified in other modes of cultural production. Thus, the hermeneutics of artworks bear a significant difference compared to other cultural artefacts. While cultural understanding happens along orbits of possibly shared significances and in the familiarity of shared contexts of meaning, artworks need to be actively constructed and spatio-temporally apprehended in their first-person phenomenal experience to rise to such a hermeneutic level only where the embodied experience can make its claim on understanding. Artworks, because they only say what they say in the unique singular language they temporally construct in the first-person phenomenal experience, also continue to carry their significances beyond their original contexts and become not only key intentional nodes that map and register a broader human reality but also exemplar structures of meaning for future generations. In what follows, I intend to outline a way of understanding this specificity of artworks in relation to their hermeneutic constitution.

Keywords: Artwork, Hermeneutics, Experience, Phenomenology, Interpretation, Symbol, Meaning, Symbolic Meaning, Cultural Meaning

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 606.321KB).

Dr. Levent Kara

Assistant Professor, School of Architecture and Community Design, University of South Florida, Tampa, FL, USA

Dr. Levent Kara joined the University of South Florida School of Architecture and Community Design in 2010. He received his B.Arch and M.Arch degrees from Orta Dogu Teknik Universitesi (Turkey) and his Ph.D. from the University of Florida. Dr. Kara is a registered architect in Turkey where he practiced for several years before coming to the University of Florida for doctoral studies in 2002 with a full four-year Alumni Fellowship. His practice in Turkey involved commissioned design work, competition entries, and construction supervision. Prior to his appointment at USF, Dr. Kara taught design studios and theory and history courses in the School of Architecture at the University of Florida as a tenure-track Assistant Professor. Dr. Kara’s research investigates architectural design as a critical practice in the production of culture. To this end, his scholarship mainly concentrates on the epistemology of design thinking, from the fundamental modalities of architectural design in terms of the relation between thinking and making, to the contemporary dilemmas surrounding the theory / practice dichotomy. This main focus on the epistemology of architectural design is further supported by lateral research on the interfaces between architectural design and other modes of cultural production including formal philosophical investigations in natural epistemology, aesthetics and culture theory, and pedagogical investigations in architectural design and theory. Dr. Kara’s writings range from formal philosophical subjects in epistemology, aesthetics, and culture theory, to architectural design, theory and criticism, and architectural pedagogy.


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