Wonder : a state of passion, absorption and distraction

Scholze, Jana (2017) Wonder : a state of passion, absorption and distraction. In: Cormier, Brendan, (ed.) Values in Design. Shanghai, China : Shanghai Fine Arts Publisher. ISBN 9787547916483


Museums with their collections arouse an intriguing fascination in people that is difficult to precisely define, and hence, is little spoken about. One of the best descriptions is probably that museums have the power to cause a sense of wonder. This ability is undoubtedly connected to the presence of exceptional objects in a special place experienced as something outside of routine and the everyday. Peter de Bolla (2012) defines wonder as an aesthetic state that simultaneously absorbs and distracts. This chapter interrogates the museum as place of wonder. It attempts to describe the complexities of and relationships between objects and spaces that evoke this ‘state of wonder’ but also indicates how this ability can be lost. Through the application of philosophical theory, the text argues that the inability to exactly specify the causes as well as to measure, account, predict and plan its effects is elemental to the experience of wonder. As it comes before knowledge, it is characterized by a duality of being equally surprising and shocking, desirable and slightly disgusting, compelling and disabling. The text concludes by shifting the emphasis to contemporary conditions in a world where reality and virtuality merge. The increased complexity of relationships expands not only the spaces for experiences of wonder but transforms the roles of object, space and most of all visitor.

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