In the Eye of the Beholder - Perception of Indeterminate Art

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Christian Wallraven, Kathrin Kaulard, Cora Kürner, Robert Pepperell, Heinrich H. Bülthoff: In the Eye of the Beholder - Perception of Indeterminate Art. In: Douglas W. Cunningham, Gary W. Meyer, László Neumann, Alan Dunning, Raquel Paricio (Eds.):Eurographics Workshop on Computational Aesthetics, 2007. 121-128



How do we interpret an object - a scene - a painting? Perception research and art illuminate from different angles how the vast amount of information in our visually perceived environment is processed by the viewer to form a coherent and consistent interpretation of the world. Using drawings and paintings by the artist Robert Pepperell, this work attempts to connect these different world views. Pepperell's paintings at first glance seem to be a baroque fresco, an expressionist still-life, or a cubist collage; taking a closer look, however, this concrete interpretation vanishes and we are left with an indeterminate painting. Using psychophysical experiments and eye tracking measures, in this work we seek to illuminate the visual processing of information in Pepperell's paintings. More specifically, we will investigate how the pattern of fixations - the loci of interest - change as a function of the task ('What is depicted in this scene?' vs. 'Does this image contain people?') and of the image content. The interpretation of the experimental results in the context of perceptual research will give first insights into the perception of (indeterminate) art. Conversely, the results are also relevant for art, as they provide a kind of perceptual, measurable 'validation' of the artist's intentions.

Extended Abstract


author = {Wallraven, C. and Kaulard, K. and K\"{u}rner, C. and Pepperell, R. and B\"{u}lthoff, H.},
title = {In the Eye of the Beholder - Perception of Indeterminate Art},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the Third Eurographics Conference on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization and Imaging},
series = {Computational Aesthetics'07},
year = {2007},
isbn = {978-3-905673-43-2},
location = {Alberta, Canada},
pages = {121--128},
numpages = {8},
url = {, },
doi = {10.2312/COMPAESTH/COMPAESTH07/121-128},
acmid = {2381275},
publisher = {Eurographics Association},
address = {Aire-la-Ville, Switzerland, Switzerland},

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