Issue Five: Affective Framing: Cinematic Experience and Exhibition Design


Mallory A. Gemmel

The medium of cinema works through an unfolding process of perception. As a spectator of cinema, one is drawn into a dimensional world, where the experience of spectacle, narrative, and semiosis work together to percolate a film’s interest, context, and purpose. Cinema is affective, engaging, and critically contemplative. Through dynamic relations between the movement and colour of images, ambient, immersive, and musical sound, cultural and human perspective, cinema creates an altered experience of reality. This encourages individuals to reflect, through embodied and cognitive instances, on the fluctuating conditions of the world and human experience.

Cinema, since its invention, has given visibility to endless objects, circumstances, and concepts including those that may have once remained unseen, unspoken, or unthought. Cinema shapes the human perception of time and space, therefore creating attitudes about history and the future. Consequently, it is a medium that allows for ideas to unfold in an engaging and ruminative way.

Like cinema, art objects produce affect and contemplation in audiences through aesthetics, context, and meaning. Increasing examples of contemporary visual art exhibitions include moving-image. Despite cinematic influence across various art forms, the practice of visual art curation remains linked to traditional theoretical practices. A common exhibition design which is derived from historical and modernist eras is seen utilized by numerous contemporary art institutions today. It is a design that uses neutral space, places artworks singularly among this space, and presents knowledge about the artworks through text and dialogue. Moving-images in white-walled galleries take the shape of objects, replacing or accompanying more traditional media, such as painting, sculpture, and photography, causing moving-image to lose some of its immersive power. Above all, the design asks viewers to perform a laborious task – requiring exhibitions and artworks to be read as if they were essays, provoking the exhibition experience to be informative and functional, rather than emotive and experiential. This sort of encounter with exhibitions has been historically productive but by thinking through mediums, similar to cinema, that work towards and succeed at affecting plural audiences, exhibitions and art practice can communicate with viewers through feeling prior to dialogue. Ultimately, this allows for more perspectives, meanings, and possibilities to manifest in the rhetoric and projects of the art-world. How can typical exhibition design can be rethought to include aesthetic and theoretical elements of media practices as a means to unfold affective and contemplative encounters with art? In what ways can this perceptual operation of cinema be effectively incorporated into the curation of contemporary art to help, encourage, and engage a diverse and critical contemplation of art practices?

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