Merfat Mohammed Bassi, Ph.D., 2019

A Somatic Mindfulness Project Exploring the Effects of Meditation on Art Appreciation in the Gallery Setting

2019 — This dissertation describes the effects of a somatic mindfulness project on the way participants interact with and respond to works of art in a gallery setting. The study begins with a critique of Descartes’ philosophy, Cartesianism, which emphasizes the role of the mind over that of the body and senses and argues that this thought continues to affect education even today. By contrast, phenomenology and mindfulness practices attempt to overcome Descartes’ legacy by focusing on the importance of the body in lived experience. In particular, this study uses a phenomenological framework to conduct mindfulness on the relationship between the body and the perception of art. To do so, I utilized several phenomenological techniques for gathering data, including observations, videos, and interviews, and I also created a unique method to analyze the data using a phenomenological verbal — written — description and visual through photographic paintings description. These techniques worked together to express the moment of reversibility between the meditative body and the artworks in the gallery setting. In sum, the findings of this study show that meditation changes the perceptual experience for different people in different ways. Another finding is that different forms of meditation may work better for some people than others. The findings of this study suggest that if art teachers are interested in using meditation, they need to be familiar with multiple forms of meditation. Also, they need to consider the role of the environment, as well as that of the artworks, in creating a wholistic meditative mood.