Thomas Moser, M.A.
Thomas Moser studied art history, philosophy and architecture in Munich, Vienna, and Paris. Until March 2020, he is pursuing his dissertation project with the working title ‘The physiology of art. Bodies and somatic art experience in the Fin de Siècle’ (‘Die Physiologie der Kunst. Körper und somatische Kunsterfahrung im Fin de Siècle’, supervised by Hubertus Kohle at the LMU Munich and Philippe Cordez at the DFK Paris) as a junior fellow in the CAS ‘Imaginaria of Force’.
The project received substantial funding from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and the Gerda Henkel Foundation. Further financial support came from the French Institut nationale de l’art, the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York, the Association of Historians of Nineteenth-Century Art und the GraduateCenterLMU. The affiliation as associated doctoral student of the junior research group ‘Premodern Objects. An Archaeology of Experience’ (‘Vormoderne Objekte. Eine Archäologie der Erfahrung‘) was followed by a guest residency at the DFK Paris in 2018. For 2020 a stay at the Warburg Institute in London has been confirmed.
Artistic explorations of physical and creative forces have been reflected upon at the recently co-organized international conferences and workshops ‘Strained Bodies – Physical Tension in Art and Science’ (with Wilma Scheschonk), ‘Objects & Organisms – Vivification, Reification, Transformation‘ (with Ella Beaucamp and Romana Kaske) and ‘Fingerspitzengefühl’ (with Andrea Haarer and Matthias Krüger). Moreover, Thomas Moser participated in the permanent exhibition ‘Jugendstil. Collection F. W. Neess’ at the Museum Wiesbaden.
- The secret life of lamps. Mucha, Nancy, and the galvanic élan vital, in: Beaucamp, Ella/Kaske, Romana/Moser, Thomas (eds.): Objects & Organisms. Vivification, Reification, Transformation, München 2020. (forthcoming)
- Everybody’s darling. A male artist society grasping for Loïe Fuller, in: Dekeukeleire, Thijs (ed.): Male bonds in nineteenth-century art, Leuven 2020. (forthcoming)
- Der Eros der Natur in Bronze. Bildhauerische Erzeugnisse und Objets d‘art des Art Nouveau, in: Forster, Peter/Panchaud, Sabine (ed.): Radikal Schön. Jugendstil und Symbolismus, Berlin/München 2019, pp. 382–429.
- Objektkultur um 1900. Der Tastsinn in Décadence und Wissenschaft, in: Seidl, Ernst/Steinheimer, Frank/Weber, Cornelia (eds.): Objektkulturen der Sichtbarmachung. Instrumente und Praktiken, Berlin 2018, pp. 83–90.
- Das Primat des Körpers. Eine Psychophysiologie der Schmerzerotik im Fin de Siècle, Ausgewählte Studienabschlussarbeiten der Fakultät für Geschichts- und Kunstwissenschaften, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, München 2016, https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/26093/.
Research project: The physiology of art. Bodies and sensual perception of art in the Fin de Siècle
The objective of the project is to demonstrate that the human body and its physiological presence played a decisive role in the art of the late 19th century. Here, the central hypothesis holds that bodily sensations were emphasized within the scope of an increasingly physiological aesthetics, and that a somatic experience of art thus entered competition with the traditionally idealistic-spiritual one. For the period between 1880 and 1910, three forms of embodiment in the visual arts will be identified and characterized as essential: the ennoblement of the tactile sensorium in the arts, the pronounced confrontation with bodily and gravitational forces, and the ubiquitous representation of explicitly physical pain experiences.
Thereby, the project is intended to simultaneously contribute to more recent research on the role of the body and bodily cognition in the arts. At the same time, it is intended to integrate itself into a body-conscious reading of modernity, as it were, opposing neo-structuralism’s sensory-pessimistic narratives that read modernity as a preliminary to abstract art.
An emphatic challenge lies in the focus on objects and the decorative arts, which have so far only been considered in the sphere of art historical connoisseurship. By linking them to the intellectual and, above all, scientific-historical discourse of their time, new insights are to be gained for the object culture of modernism.
Research results: The physiology of art. Bodies and sensual perception of art in the Fin de Siècle
Starting in the winter of 1892, Loïe Fuller set her own body in motion night after night, incorporating her extraordinary electro-technical know-how. For the audience, however, the veils remained opaque. The very fact that her serpentine dance put aside the representative qualities of a contingent body display made it no less of a thermodynamic model case than the physiological sculpture of Paul Richer, Rupert Carabin or Jean Baffier. Whether as a danced flame, a lily or pure ornament, Fuller's human motor continuously staged the transformation of power into form. However, the vast stage presence of her body was made possible at the expense of her health: while Fuller possessed immense athletic endurance, she was soon threatened by blindness due to excessive spotlight.
The fascination for such metamorphoses stems from the limitations of visual perception, as it was not able to fully grasp the rapid sequences of events. As the physiology of movement was simultaneously confronted with precisely the same problem, artistic solutions adopted chronophotography’s serial method of representation. Once domesticated in the static work of art, the structural relationship of the hand-operated fabric drapery with Étienne-Jules Marey's méthode graphique became apparent. The causality of force and line, prominently assumed by van de Velde and Marey, ultimately made the serpentine dances themselves intelligible as graphic line compositions and force structures. From the outset, any consistent or accurate depiction of the méthode graphique or chronophotography was of no relevance either in Fuller's performances or in the arts. Rather, the American's spectacular dances served as an unprecedented projection surface and an equally productive dynamo for Belle Époque thought on the intertwined issues of the body, force, movement, and form. Serpentine Dance has not only acted as a common place of artistic practice, aesthetics, and physiology, but also as a joint that mediates between them, inspiring processes of exchange.