On Mediating Affect: Art or the Institution?

November 14, 2011


This essay explores the nature of the art institution in terms of context and neutrality and specifically examines its role in the mediation of affect between the work of art and its audience. It looks at a historical shift in the relationship between the work of art and the art museum during the Modernist period, where the mediation, the ‘architecture’ of the art became to be seen as critical in the experience of the art as the work of art itself.

The text is follows the development of new museum typologies that emerged to accommodate this changing relationship, specifically focusing on the forming of the Dia Art Foundation in 1974. This foundation is important in its appropriation of existing industrial architecture in the exhibition of its increasingly industrially scaled Minimalist collection, but specifically Dia is important for its role in mediating affect and explicit control of context in three works by artist Walter De Maria. These works, both commissioned and maintained by the foundation are The New York Earth Room, The Lightning Field and the Vertical Earth Kilometer and are discussed here in terms of the architectural typologies of their encounter; these being the floating interior/prosthetic Other, the relational exterior/sited Other, and the floating exterior/dormant Other respectively.

In examining the possible encounters with these works, the essay will establish the formation of affect according to the Spinoza/Deleuze lineage of affective discourse; and will reference the loss of agency as described by Walker Percy’s The Loss of the Creature in questioning the myth of neutrality in the art museum.

The essay concludes by looking beyond questions of site specificity and context in a work of art but to speculate on their relationship in the joint creation of artwork and affect specific architectures.

Please find my essay at:

On Mediating Affect: Art or the Institution?

Please find my colouring book at:

The Logic of Sensation: An architecture and philosophy colouring book


Kim Bridgland


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