The sacred ground: enhancing and constructing the transcendent state in the immersive installation environment

Sadia, S 2019, The sacred ground: enhancing and constructing the transcendent state in the immersive installation environment, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Art, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title The sacred ground: enhancing and constructing the transcendent state in the immersive installation environment
Author(s) Sadia, S
Year 2019
Abstract This study is about why and how people may have profound, life-changing, transcendent experiences within immersive works of art. It seeks to identify the key drivers of this state and questions whether or not it is possible to volitionally enhance such a state in our viewers or participants. This is explored through literature surrounding the experience of the epiphanic, of awe and the transcendent. It draws a relationship from literature through to the immersive installation environment, incorporating but not limited to light, still or moving images, and sound.

The approach is largely heuristic. As part of my research I engage in an element of autoethnography.  My work is based on embodiment theories of emotion and on my qualitative and subjective evaluations as an artist. The study is grounded in the pragmatist tradition of art as experience, locating the value of the artwork in its ability to impact the perceptual and emotional life of the individual.

My argument is that there is the potential within emerging technologies to enhance or heighten profound emotional experiences with art, which may be defined as cathartic, epiphanic, transcendental or conversion; that these experiences are innate and universal; and that the immersive or encompassing environment in art may be modelled to enhance such experiences. The investigation goes to the heart of questions about the validity and purpose of art. Most artists want to connect with their audiences as deeply as possible and move them emotionally as fully as possible. This study examines the precursors to that `moment' of communion or connection, as well as identifying conditions that might enhance the likelihood of such an epiphanic or transcendental experience taking place. These conditions have been tested subjectively, iteratively and reiteratively. As artists, we understand that  our work can have profound and even mystical effects on our audiences. The study confirms that this connection need not be a matter of chance or accident.

The subject by necessity refers to attitudes and current thinking in the fields of cognitive and perceptual psychology as well as the neuroscience of aesthetics. The definitions of the `experience' are not only highly subjective and deeply personal but variable across literature. The aim is to research these ideas through practice to reach a better understanding of how they might be enjoined to enhance the viewer or participant experience of the immersive installation environment.

The artworks in this project employ the materiality of light and sound, audio in multiple formats including surround sound, as well as still and moving images incorporated into encompassing installation environments. The research concludes that not only does the phenomenon exist, as reported in literature, it can be incited and excited through aesthetic strategies. These strategies include: the manipulation of time (slow motion and ultra-slow motion); the use of grand vista; and the use of accommodation (the accommodation of the individual to unexpected stimuli, the presence of the `Unknown') all of which may be mobilised individually or in combination with the aesthetic use of stress or threat to invoke the experience of the numinous.

The accompanying media files have been included with the preservation copy.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Art
Subjects Performance and Installation Art
Lens-based Practice
Keyword(s) Installation art
Immersive installations
Empirical aesthetics
Slow motion
Artist studio practice
Cognitive fatigue
Time-based arts
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Created: Thu, 13 Jun 2019, 12:49:41 EST by Adam Rivett
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