Art Media and the Sense Modalities: Tactile Pictures

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Abstract

It is widely assumed that the art media can be individuated with reference to the sense modalities. Different art media are perceived by means of different sense modalities, and this tells us what properties of each medium are aesthetically relevant. The case of pictures appears to fit this principle well, for pictures are deemed purely and paradigmatically visual representations. However, recent psychological studies show that congenitally and early blind people have the ability to interpret and make raised-line drawings through touch. This shows that pictures are not essentially visual representations. The view that pictures are essentially visual follows from influential views of the nature of depiction and of the nature of vision that are mistaken. By rooting out the mistake, we learn something about pictures, something about vision, and something about the doctrine that art media are individuated by the sense modalities.

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