Homo Aestheticus  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

"It was Ellen Dissanayake (1998) who first saw the connection between the Komar and Melamid paintings and prehistoric landscape tastes—yet another debt Darwinian aesthetics owes to her." --The Art Instinct

Related e



Homo Aestheticus (1992) is a book by Ellen Dissanayake. Dissanayake argues that art was central to the emergence, adaptation and survival of the human species, that aesthetic ability is innate in every human being, and that art is a need as fundamental to our species as food, warmth or shelter.

She views art as the product of “making things special”, and these things may be objects as well as behaviors. That is to say, art evolved to make certain events, tentatively important for survival or social cohesion, more salient, pleasurable, and memorable. Artifacts of art are also said to result from efforts to deal with uncertainties of nature by exerting control over it.

It is claimed that art experiences are physically pleasurable, and distinctively so because one appreciates how the creators of art have shaped the raw materials. However, Dissanayake also contends that some of these raw materials may be pleasurable in themselves, i.e. “protoaesthetic“ (p. 54), as may be the process of creation or some percepts in themselves without symbolic meaning, e.g. by means of obeying the Gestalt Principles. In general, the process of “making things special” is described as drawing on those aspects of the world that evolution had led us to find attractive: visual signs of health, youth and vitality, as well as a balance between uniformity and asymmetries.

The chapter The Arts as Means of Enhancement is a collection of cross-cultural evidence for instances that fall under Dissanayake's definition of art; a criticism of narrow European-centered notions of art in the 19th and 20th century. This criticism is developed further in the books' last chapter that advocates the necessity to promote art in education and everyday life, as it is said to be a universal, biologically rooted human behavior.

The book has been favorably reviewed by Denis Dutton in 1994 who states that it "calls for a counter-revolution in our thinking about art. Its message is timely, provocative, and immensely valuable.″

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Homo Aestheticus" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

Personal tools