ART OF THE ANIMAL

Posted by komninos zervos | Thu Feb 9th 2006 5:53 p.m.

ART OF THE ANIMAL: AN EXHIBITION AND SYMPOSIUM ON THE NATURE OF CREATIVITY

EXHIBITION
For fifty years various animals have learned to paint, draw and even make
music.
In the late 1950s animal behaviourist Desmond Morris experimented with
chimps, providing them with paint in order to better understand both chimp
and human creativity. His most successful subject, Congo, produced over
400 paintings, some of which recently gained record prices at auction.
Picasso, Miro and Dali all had Congo pieces in their personal collections.
Since then many chimpanzees, orang-utans, gorillas, elephants and sea lions
have become prolific artists. At various times, dolphins, a dog and a
capuchin monkey have also produced ‘art’. Recently the digital age
arrived, with chimps in Japan producing creative digital drawings on
computer screens.

Importantly, various ‘schools’ of elephant painting have developed across
Thailand and individual styles have emerged among all creatures. A
particularly talented gorilla, the late Michael of Cameroon and then
California, even mastered both figurative and expressive painting. Many
animals seem to know when a piece is finished, some sign their works with
hand or footprints and apes that have mastered sign language name each
piece themselves. One poor creature, an orang-utan living in Austria, has
a jealous partner who insists on eating her works, perhaps a form of
performance art. There have been a few chimpanzee, orang-utan or elephant
art exhibitions in recent years but never before has there been a worldwide
animal art competition open to all species but humans.

The Art of the Animal exhibition is part of a new research program in
Griffith University’s School of Arts, based at the Gold Coast campus,
Queensland, Australia. Entitled The Human Question, this research aims to
investigate and develop the question of being human in its most significant
manifestations of culture, communication and community, especially in the
context of creativity. The research has many established and developing
sub-programs and projects designed to discover new approaches to the
expression and investigation of creativity, community and culture. There
is a particular focus on explorations of the interfaces between people,
places, identity, art, story, experience and technology. Studies of the
origins of art and features that make humans distinctive led to the Art of
the Animal exhibition idea.

The exhibition will primarily be online but some actual pieces will also be
curated. There are three main objectives to the exhibition. The first is
to question our understanding of what it is to be human, the nature of
human creativity and our relationship to other species. The second is to
profile the so-called ‘art’ of a wide range of non-humans in the first
pan-species global exhibition. The third is to celebrate the 50 year
anniversary of the ‘dawn’ of animal art.

The exhibition is expected to attract entries from Asia, Africa, Europe,
the Americas and even Australia. The Gold Coast’s own local artist, Conan
the Australian sea lion, and his mates have already signed up to both
promote and participate in the exhibition. Based at Seaworld, Conan and
partners have been painting for several years now and should provide stiff
competition not only for other seals but also chimps, orangs and
pachyderms.

The art programs Conan and other animals participate in have been in place
for some time and research has shown they greatly benefit the animals,
decreasing boredom and improving both psychological and physical health.
These are intelligent creatures that enjoy the stimulation, play and
creativity art making brings. Animals are not forced to do anything.

Entries are now open. Human artists need not apply but minders may enter
works on behalf of their animal companions (maximum four per animal
artist). Two dimensional pieces should photographed and high resolution
images should be sent by email or on a CD. Video clips of artists are
particularly welcome. Entries in any media, with accompanying certificates
of authenticity and photographs of the artist at work, may be sent on CD,
DVD or via email (for smaller files) to:

Prof. Paul S.C. Tacon
School of Arts
Gold Coast campus, Griffith University
PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre
Queensland 9726
E-mail: p.tacon@griffith.edu.au

A virtual exhibition of submitted works will open online at
www.eagleandowl.com.* on 24 November 2006 while a small actual exhibition
of art by animals will be on display at Griffith University’s Gold Coast
campus from the 24 - 30 November 2006. Both versions will feature
original works as well as photographs and video clips of some of the
artists at work. Prizes will be awarded in several categories. A small
colour catalogue will also be available. Entries close on 20 October 2006.

SYMPOSIUM
The Art of the Animal symposium explores the nature of art, humans and
inter-species creativity over two days. Taking place on 27-28 November at
the Gold Coast, Queensland, it is the inaugural symposium of Griffith
University’s The Human Question research program
(http://www.gu.edu.au/school/art/research/home.html).

A key question explored through the symposium is how human creativity
differs from or is similar to that of other creatures. Ultimately, the
question of ‘what makes us human?’ will be debated. In this sense one
objective is to raise awareness of animal consciousness and human
relatedness to other creatures. We are all animals but human creativity
has taken us on a different path from other creatures. Our current and
future creative paths will also be explored and debated.

A cast of international and Australian speakers will be assembled. Each day
will have three sessions of 3-4 papers, for a total of 20 papers. Each
paper will be no more than 20 minutes in length, leaving 10 minutes for
questions and brief discussion. Papers will be organised into the
following sessions:

SESSION 1: Animal Creativity
SESSION 2: The Emergence of Human Creativity
SESSION 3: Forms of Human Creativity
SESSION 4: Translating Creativity
SESSION 5: Creativity Case Studies
SESSION 6: Future Creativity

At the end of each day there will be plenty of time for debate and
questions.

Papers will be published in an illustrated book that will include works
from the online exhibition and short descriptions of the artists.
Presenters are encouraged to submit written drafts of their papers before
the Symposium and to revise them based on comments and discussion shortly
thereafter.

For more details about both the exhibition and the symposium see the Centre
for Public Culture and Ideas Activities page on their website or follow the
direct link to
http://www.griffith.edu.au/centre/cpci/news/content\_artoftheanimal.html
In early March 2006 see also the Art of the Animal page at
www.eagleandowl.com,* host of the online exhibition, or contact the
exhibition and symposium organisers:

Prof. Paul S.C. Tacon
School of Arts
Gold Coast campus, Griffith University
PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre
Queensland 9726
E-mail: p.tacon@griffith.edu.au
Telephone: +61 (0)7 55529074

and/or
Ms. Jill Jones
(Events Coordinator)
j.jones@griffith.edu.au
Telephone: +61 (0)7 373 57338 Fax: +61 (0)7 373 54132

*The eagleandowl.com website will be fully functional in early March.
Eagleandowl.com explores creative intersections of art and science,
especially in relation to natural and cultural landscapes. Particular
interests include human innovation, animal creativity and the origin of
ideas. The translation of ideas into creative practice and academic
scholarship is also a concern. Its premise, that we all can be more
creative, is expressed in varying visual and text-based ways to illustrate
that each of us can change the world if we want to. A central goal is
achieving a better understanding of what creativity is, how human
creativity distinguishes us from other species and how we can better tap
into our individual and collective creative potentials.

Eagleandowl.com is an experimental online interface of Griffith
University’s The Human Question research program. Based in the School of
Arts on Griffith’s Gold Coast campus, The Human Question focuses on
creativity in the context of culture, community and communication through
innovative collaborative and individual projects
(http://www.gu.edu.au/school/art/research/home.html). But Eagleandowl.com
does not merely reflect research results. Rather it actively participates
in and fosters research through the exploration of creativity, human
relationships to living environments and the fusion of art and science.

Eagleandowl.com is both fun and serious. By combining the keen eye of the
eagle artist with the wisdom of the owl scientist it will challenge and
provoke us into seeing the world differently, so as to foster new ideas,
inspirations and innovations for the benefit of the planet.

komninos zervos
lecturer, CyberStudies major
School of Arts
Griffith University
Room 3.25 Multimedia Building G23
Gold Coast Campus
Parkwood
PMB 50 Gold Coast Mail Centre
Queensland 9726
Australia
Phone 07 5552 8872 Fax 07 5552 8141
http://www.gu.edu.au/ppages/k\_zervos
http://users.bigpond.net.au/mangolegs
http://spokenword.blog-city.com
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