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Tuesday, July 14, 2020


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Antony Hall

Antony Hall
Experiments in somaesthetic art and the psychology of multisensory perception

. What are the implications of artists using galleries as perceptual laboratories or tools for exploring somaesthetic experience?

Working with experimental psychologists introduced me to the field of tactile multi-sensory illusions’ and the problem of subjective experience. We devised an experiment, the ‘clay hand experiment’ a variation on the famous ‘Rubber hand experiment’ exploring the notion of perceptual plasticity, and this forms a point of departure for this research. From my experience of working with scientists, I often get to work on more speculative playful elements of their research. In science such ‘playing around’ is often left unreported, and yet is highly important to the design of experiments, scientists must prioritise the ‘final product’. Artists are placed in a unique position, to discuss and present these more subjective experiences, and outcomes. Furthermore, perceptual illusions often create sensations which are difficult to describe with words, and data can seem abstract. ‘Experiential art’ can be a means of communicating these kinds of experiences through participation without the use of words.

Through this interdisciplinary practice-based research, working closely with scientists, I plan to recreate a range of perceptual multi-sensory illusions. These will include illusions of body ownership, [of body parts hands the face and tongue for example] as well as location and motion of the body in space. I hope to gain important insights from these experiments, which will inform a series of new artworks. From this process, I hope to learn how art can be used as a phenomenological tool for researching and reflecting upon the subjective experience of illusion. This could identify new links between art and experimental psychology, new ways in which artists can contribute to research in perception and consciousness.

Currently, this field is experiencing a surge in interest and developments. Spanning psychology, cognitive-neuroscience and even ‘multi-sensory marketing’. Other creative technological applications of this research extend to VR, motion simulation and haptic technologies. I will draw on historical and current trends of artists working with sensorial, experiential, immersive installations which play with perception and even our physical sense of self. Artworks which necessarily put human behaviour at the forefront of the work, the viewer is transformed into the active ‘subject’ or ‘participant’.


Research Degree: PhD, Full-time
Department: Media
Funded: North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership (NWCDTP) Scholarship Award.