Beholding considers the spatially situated encounter between artwork and spectator. It argues that artworks created for specific places or conditions structure a reciprocal encounter, which is completed by the presence of a beholder. These are works which demand the 'beholder's share', but not, as Ernst Gombrich famously claimed, to sustain an illusion. Rather, Beholding reconfigures Gombrich's notion of the beholder's share as a set of 'licensed' imaginative and cognitive projections.

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Cover image © ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

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About

Dr Ken Wilder is an academic, artist and writer. He is the University of the Arts London Reader in Spatial Design, based at Chelsea College of Arts and Camberwell College of Arts. 

 

Wilder makes site-responsive sculptural installations, sometimes including video projection. He has exhibited widely in the UK, and also exhibited in Germany, Lithuania, Ukraine, Sweden and China. He is artist-in-residence for Coram, the leading children’s charity; in 2016, he installed Skylights, a site-specific installation within the London Foundling mortuary, Bloomsbury. 

 

Wilder has written extensively on the aesthetics of reception. His monograph Beholding: Situated Art and the Aesthetics of Reception was published in May 2020 by Bloomsbury. The book establishes a transhistorical notion of the spatially-situated encounter, and considers the role of the architectural host in bringing the beholder’s orientation into play. This engages a diverse range of practices: from Renaissance painting and group portraiture to intermedia practices of installation and performance art. Written within the broad remit of reception aesthetics, the book proposes a phenomenological theory of beholding, argued through an in-depth examination of artworks and their spatial contexts, selected for their explanatory potential. These various encounters allocate different constitutive roles to the beholder, bringing not only spatial and temporal orientation into play, but also a repertoire of anticipated ideas and beliefs. 

 

Stephen Farthing RA, artist and Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford, writes of Beholding that it is:

 

A beautifully-written interdisciplinary book that acknowledges the permeability of the once strong divisions that separated art, architecture, the cinema and design. Artist and theorist Ken Wilder explains, through his theory of beholding, how the audience’s viewing conditions can shape their understanding of an art work.

 

Wilder has had articles published in the British Journal of Aesthetics, the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, the Moving Image Review and Art Journal, Estetika: The Central European Journal for Aesthetics, Architecture and Culture, Theatre and Performance Design, Image [&] Narrative, and Filmwaves. He has written a chapter on the Free Art Collective, published in Manifesto Now! (London: Intellect, 2013), and a chapter, ‘The Configurational Encounter and the Problematic of Beholding’, in Malcolm Quinn (ed.) The Persistence of Taste: Art, Museums and Everyday Life After Bourdieu (London and New York: Routledge, 2016). The artist's current research continues to focus on the phenomenological experience of art, but extends this beyond the visual (in collaboration with Dr Aaron McPeake). This questions how a shift in the aesthetic engagement afforded by hybrid (intermedia) forms of contemporary art potentially opens up new engagements for the partially sighted and blind community.

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Publications

Wilder, Ken (2020, forthcoming) ‘Installation Art and the Question of Aesthetic Autonomy: Juliane Rebentisch and the Beholder’s Share’, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.

 

(2020) Beholding: Situated Art and the Aesthetics of Reception (London and New York: Bloomsbury).

 

(2018) ‘The Configurational Encounter and the Problematic of Beholding’. In Malcolm Quinn, David Beech, Michael Lehnert, Carol Tulloch and Stephen Wilson (eds.) The Persistence of Taste: Art, Museums and Everyday Life After Bourdieu (London and New York: Routledge), pp. 77-90.

 

(2016) ‘Projective Art and the Staging of Empathic Projection’, Moving Image Review and Art Journal, Vol. 5, Issue 1&2, pp. 124-140.

 

(2015) ‘The Case for an External Spectator’. In Beth Harland and Sunil Manghani (eds.) Painting: Critical and Primary Sources, 4 Volumes (London, New Dehli, New York and Sydney: Bloomsbury Publishing), Volume 3: Critical Perspectives, Part 3: Phenomenology, Chapter 16.

 

(2015) ‘Vermeer: Interruptions, Exclusions, and “Imagining Seeing”’, Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics, LII/VIII, No. 1, pp. 38-59.

 

(2015) Review: Performativity in the Gallery: Staging Interactive Encounters, by Outi Remes, Laura MacCulloch and Marika Leino (eds.). In Theatre and Performance Design, Vol. 1, pp. 199-202.

 

(2014) ‘Filmic Bodies: Transgressing Boundaries Between Filmic and Real Space’, Architecture and Culture, Vol. 2, No. 3, pp. 361-378. 

 

(2014) ‘Las Meninas, Alois Riegl, and the “Problem” of Group Portraiture’, Proceedings of the European Society of Aesthetics, Vol. 6, pp. 402-421.

 

(2013) ‘Standing By Their Words: The Manifestos of the Freee Art Collective’. In Laura Cull and Will Daddario (eds.) Manifesto Now! Instructions for Performance, Philosophy, Politics (London: Intellect), pp. 51-69. 

 

(2012) ‘Anri Sala, Absorption and “Theatricalizing” Reception’, Moving Image Review and Art Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 255-264.

 

(2012) ‘Michael Fried and Beholding Video Art’, Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics, XLIX/V, No. 1, pp. 5-25.

 

(2011) ‘Neither Here Nor Elsewhere: Displacement Devices in Representing the Supernatural’, Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics, XLVIII/IV, No. 1, pp. 46-62.

 

(2008) ‘The Case for an External Spectator’, British Journal of Aesthetics, Vol. 48, No. 3, pp. 261-272.

 

(2007) ‘Negotiating Painting’s Two Perspectives’, in ‘Thinking Pictures’, guest edited by Hanneke Grootenboer, Image [&] Narrative, e-journal, Issue 18: http://www.imageandnarrative.be.

 

(2006) ‘A Spatiality of Situation’, Art In-Sight/Filmwaves, No. 31, pp. 16-18.

 

(2004) Milky Voids (Ulm, Germany: Galerie Sebastianskapelle – bilingual exhibition catalogue).

Maynard Smith, Julian and Wilder, Ken (1998) Spaces and Narrations (London: 97-99 Publishing - catalogue funded by Arts Council of England). 

 

Practice

 

Exhibitions

2019    

‘Tintin project’: group exhibition, part of Suzhou Design Festival 2019, Suzhou, China

 

2019    

Grey Stone: installed at Coram Campus, London (commissioned by Coram)

2018    

‘m2@15’: group exhibition, APT Gallery, London

 

2017    

‘Skylights’: solo exhibition, Upright Gallery, Edinburgh

 

2017    

‘Notating Space’: group exhibition; Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts

2017    

‘Spatial Narratives’: curated by Ken Wilder and Helen Khilkova, DonStream Education Group, Kiev, Ukraine

 

2016    

‘Panoptic’: group exhibition; Chongqing Creative Festival, ADC Art Square, Jin Shan Yi Ku, Liangjiang New Area, Chongqing, China

 

2016

Milk Line #1: installed at LT Ranch, Lithuania

 

2016

Skylights: installation in old mortuary, Coram Campus, London (commissioned by Coram)

 

2016

‘Parallax’: group show (and accompanying catalogue), Cookhouse and Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, London

 

2015

‘Projection/Expulsion’: curator and exhibitor at group exhibition, with Karimah Ashadu,
Robin Jenkins, Adam Kossoff, Aaron McPeake, Aura Satz; Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, London

 

2014

‘Object as Measure’: group exhibition; Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, London

 

2013

‘Film as Measure’: group exhibition; Cookhouse Gallery, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London

 

2011

Double Negative: installation in pavilion by Quay 2c Architects, Rootstein Hopkins Parade
Ground at Chelsea College of Art and Design 

 

2010

Plenum #4: installation in the Chapel of Keble College, Oxford 

 

2009

‘Projective Space’: solo exhibition; Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Arts, London

 

2009

‘Limbo’: group exhibition; Crypt Gallery, London

 

2008

‘Black and White’: group exhibition; Gallery 12, Hampstead, London

 

2007

Monochrome Passage: installed as part of group exhibition; Lethaby Gallery, Central St

Martins, London

 

2006

‘Angles of Projection’: co-curator and exhibitor at group exhibition, with Adam Kossoff, Karen Mirza and Brad Butler, Tony Sinden; Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London 

 

2005

‘Performance Furniture’: group exhibition; Triangle Gallery, Chelsea College of Art and Design, London

 

2004

Passage: installation at M2 Gallery, Peckham, London 

 

2004

‘Projective Space’: solo exhibition; Galerie Sebastianskapelle, Ulm, Germany
(awarded British Council Travel Grant) 

 

2003

Conduit: installation at M2 Gallery, Peckham, London (coincided with London Open House) 

 

2002

I was once as you are....: installation at Kingsgate Gallery, London

 

2002

‘Reflections’: group exhibition with Dieter Pietsch, Peter Stickland, Amikam Toren; gf2 gallery, Soho 

 

2000

‘Performance Architecture’ (accompanied symposium at Tate Modern): group exhibition with Julian Maynard Smith, Anthony Howell and Dieter Pietsch; 291 Gallery, London 

 

1998

‘Spaces and Narrations’: joint exhibition with performance artist Julian Maynard Smith; 97-99 Gallery, London (Arts Council Publication Award)

 

Selected Conferences

TBC 2021    

Space, Site, Installation: Keynote speaker, University of Padua, Italy.

June 2019     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Warsaw, Poland.

Sept 2018     

Conference paper given at the British Society of Aesthetics Annual Conference, St Edmund’s Hall, University of Oxford.

June 2018     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Maribor, Slovenia (published in ESA proceedings).

June 2017     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Berlin, Germany.

June 2016     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Barcelona, Spain.

June 2015     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Dublin, Ireland.

May 2014     

Taste after Bourdieu: Chelsea College of Arts, London.

May 2014     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Amsterdam (published in ESA proceedings).

 

Nov 2013     

Transgression: 10th Annual Conference of the Architectural Humanities Research Association: University of the West of England. 

 

June 2013    

Conference paper given at the European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Prague, Czech republic. 

 

June 2012     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Braga & Guimarães, Portugal (published in ESA proceedings). 

April 2011     

Conference paper given at European Society of Aesthetics Conference, Grenoble, France (published in ESA proceedings).

May 2010     

Conference paper given at the European Society of Aesthetics Conference, University of Udine, Italy (published in ESA proceedings).

Sept 2008     

Conference paper given at the British Society of Aesthetics Annual Conference, St Edmund’s Hall, University of Oxford. 

 

Contact

k.wilder@chelsea.arts.ac.uk

Chelsea College of Arts

University of the Arts London

16 John Islip Street

Millbank

SW1P 4JU

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