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Abstract

Natural history exhibitions have changed considerably over recent decades concurring with a rise of a general movement of aestheticization in the Western culture. This usually results from an attempt to make the exhibitions more appealing to provide the public numerous ways of enjoying themselves, but they are also used to communicate information, especially of an ethical and affective kind. In this paper I will consider the effects of a particular kind of aestheticization, namely artification, of these kinds of exhibitions. Artification, i.e, the process of regarding non-art objects as art, appears to be in conflict with the science-based purposes of these exhibitions. Is this truly so? Does science and the viewer's understanding of scientific knowledge change when science is presented and exerienced as art or as art-like or as something aesthetic? I will approach this question phenomenologically by pondering my own experience in the Natural Bistory Museum in Helsinki and the relation of aesthetics, science and art on that basis. Instead of trying to define how art-like the exhibit in question as a whole is, I will concentrate on certain characters the exhibit has that are perhaps more readily associated with the artisitc: uniqueness and presence, and how through these concepts we may gain a look into the interrelation between art and science.

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Esthetics Commons

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