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Gesture aesthetics have been present within different disciplines over centuries. The importance of gesture for an inquiry on human expressivity was often congruent with the development of artistic forms: in aesthetic theory from the 18th century, emphasis was put on the temporal, aesthetic constructedness of affect expression in acting and theatre practices.
Furthermore, art works and paintings of gesture shaped the way of how human affects were understood. With the invention of photography in the 19th century, scholars’ investigation of human emotion expression changed due to new technical and aesthetic properties. In the context of the emerging moving image culture, human movement and gesture were highlighted by media-specific characteristics; film aesthetics focused and framed human conduct in a certain manner: gesture was no longer conceived of as something specific to the individual or actor only, but film itself became a gesture-like medium with the power to shape affects on the side of spectators.
Ever since the beginning of the 20th century, however, research on gesture more and more diversified in terms of different disciplines, from psychology, philosophy and cognitive sciences to anthropological, phenomenological, and linguistic investigations. In most cases, this disciplinary diversification was paralleled by a focusing on particular (e.g., semantic, pragmatic, cognitive) aspects of gestures and body movements. Especially psychologically and cognitively informed approaches left the aesthetic dimension of dynamic hand and body movements out of consideration.
The second Spring Lecture of the Brandenburg Centre for Media Studies (ZeM) is organized by and takes place at the European University Viadrina on 28 May 2019 in Frankfurt (Oder) in cooperation with the University of Rouen and the University Paris 8 in France.