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George Orwel





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Recent aesthetic theories have neglected ambiance as an experiential thought while emphasizing aura and atmosphere as affective states; feelings grounded in Hermann Schmitz’s New Phenomenology. Existing literature, particularly the works of Tonino Griffero and Gernot Böhme, have muddied this debate and caused confusion by equating ambiance with aura, atmosphere, and Stimmung, or mood. This dissertation delineates ambiance and characterizes its existential structure and materialism as it presents itself to a historical subject through sculptures situated in the landscape of Africana political, social, cultural, and ecological life. Ambiance is like an embosphere, an experiential thing that is internal, subjective, and individual; it is neither objective like aura nor collective like atmosphere. In explicating “sculpted ambiance” as an alternative methodology vis-à-vis historicism, this dissertation critiques contemporary forms of representation while applying Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology of perception, i.e., intentionality, to space. This research fills a gap in aesthetics left by a lack of focus on non-architectural visual art. It does this by episodically discussing ambiance as a momentary process of mise-en-scène (staging) experiences—looking, listening, and touching art, triggering audience’s affective registers. The research also builds on Böhme’s and Griffero’s identity of affective state which they characterize as “between place,” “something more,” and “excess effect.” Enveloping history, culture, and ecosystem, sculpture—as an artform and a shared monument—temporally and spatially mediates accounts of society. My main argument is that when we are allured by objects and conditions, we rely on perceptions and processes that are spatially and temporally mediated. Ambiance is part of a spatial hierarchy in the human ecosystem, a process that is epistemic and ontological. As imaginary elemental things, ambiances determine individual moods, attitudes, ways of thinking, and topologies constituting life in society.


Aesthetics | Art Practice | Arts and Humanities | Philosophy


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts



Between the Sun and the Sea



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