Art in Public Places
: A Phenomenological Investigation into the Relation between Art and the Place-World

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The aim of this these is to gain a deeper understanding of the relation between art and place. The principal difficulty we confront in attempting to engage with this problem is the broad usage of each of these two terms. Indeed, “art” could refer to almost any kind of thing, action or event, while “place” might denote a similarly expansive field of referents, from the “hereness” of my body, to the room, building, town or city where it is placed. What is interesting about the apparent relation of these two terms, however, is how closely we tend to associate specific kinds of art with certain sorts of places. Painting and sculpture are closely associated with the museum or gallery, for instance, while graffiti is very much of the street. There is a sense in which these different kinds of artworks reflect something of the varying styles of accommodation that those places offer up, therefore, which raises questions as to what these places might reveal to us about the kinds of artworks they accommodate and our relationship with them. This thesis takes the form of an extended phenomenological investigation and is inspired by the work of four key figures in particular: Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Martin Heidegger, Edward S. Casey and Jeff Malpas. A variety of art-place relations are analysed along the way, although especially close attention is paid to the following case studies: Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, John Cage’s 4’33”, London’s Tate Modern museum, and Janet Cardiff’s celebrated sound walk The Missing Voice (case study b). The overarching question guiding these discussions is the following: How and to what extent does the audience’s relationship with the place in which the artwork is encountered shape the meaning of that encounter?
Date of Award21 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorNeil Messer (Supervisor) & Timothy Secret (Supervisor)


  • Place
  • Phenomenology
  • Art
  • Implacement
  • Museums

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