Non-human art

A bowerWhile the chapter on Art provided plenty definitions and its development over the decades, most definitions are limited as for and by humans.

I thought it would be interesting to make a quick overview of what could be considered non-human art. At the very least, this might trigger the question to think even further about what art really is.

In the animal world, male bowerbirds spends the majority of his time building an performing upkeep on an intricate structure (called a bower) to attract females. The bowers consist of two stick walls shaped in an arch, and a yard filled with trinkets. The differences in individual bowers almost suggest a talent for curation!

A similar intent can be found in paintings made by Chimpanzees, Orangutans and Elephants. While the zoo’s approaches towards painting are different (some animals are left completely free to create and get choice in colors and tools, while others are more restricted).

With his interactive drawing machines constructed from salvaged metal and other waste material, Jean Tinguely critiqued the role of the artist and the elitist position of art in society.

Is it art or is it “only” creative expression? And, considering e.g. the plastics used in the bowers and the fact that the animals are contained in a zoo, can we really call this non-human?

From that angle, the ongoing interest of machines making art is an interesting one as well. Jean Tinguely’s drawing machines and more recently, investigations into AI’s and robots making art all trigger us to think about art’s position in society, as well as questions about ownership.

This is perhaps an especially relevant angle with this class’ focus on algorithms and the question on who’s to be accountable for their outcomes.





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