2011 Distinguished Lecture, featuring
The Deep Structure of Pleistocene
Rock Art: The “Artification Hypothesis”
February 8th, Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve, Las Vegas NV
February 10th, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno NV
Both lectures begin at 6 pm and will be followed by a book signing and reception
Photo courtesy of Ekkehart Malotki
The next speaker in NRAF’s Distinguished Lecture Series is Ellen Dissanayake. Ms Dissanayake is an independent scholar, author, and lecturer, whose writings about the arts synthesize many disciplines and apply to many fields. Combining her interests in the arts and evoluntionary biology, and using insights drawn from fifteen years of living and working in nonwestern countries, she has developed a unique perspective that considers art to be a normal, natural, and necessary component of our evolved nature as humans. An abstract of her much anticipated lecture can be found below.
Archaeologists frequently assume that the appearance of “art” provides a window into ancient human minds and social groups, indicating their degree of human intelligence or cultural development. In contrast, Ellen Dissanayake claims that art, considered ethologically as a behavior of “artifying” (rather than as artifacts or products of that activity such as engravings or paintings on rocks or walls, shell beads, or bone instruments), can be considered as a biologically distinctive and noteworthy characteristic of humans in itself, not simply as a subset or byproduct of their intelligence, symbolizing ability, or cultural level. In her view, artification—intentionally making parts of the natural and manmade environment (shelters, tools, utensils, weapons, clothing, bodies, surroundings, and other paraphernalia) extraordinary or special by marking, shaping, and embellishing them beyond their ordinary functional appearance—is a heretofore undescribed (or overlooked) capacity in the human repertoire. Calling these activities “artification” (rather than “art”) avoids connotations of value, beauty, skill, or representation inherent in the modern Western concept. Her hypothesis about evolutionary antecedents, motivation, and adaptive advantages provides a new approach to the concept of “art” in human evolution.