Artifact #2- What is Art for?

Topic: What is Art for?


Course Objectives:

-Consider the origins of art

-Explore a brief history of Western Art

-Examine multiple perspectives for evaluating art

Artifact: Paleoanthropsychobiological Ideology:

In this assignment, we were asked to respond to 2 questions:

1. Describe the term paleoanthropsychobiological. Who coined this term?

2. What does Dissanayake mean by the phrase “making special”? How does it relate to art?

Ellen Dissanayake coined the term paleoanthropsychobiological to describe a unique perspective of art. She uses the term to suggest how art includes all of human history, not just the recent time period. It has been around since the early beginnings of time and was just important then as it is now. This perspective has included all human societies rather than just our modern one, its importance is cross-cultural.  Art has many effects, because it is necessary, emotionally and psychologically. Dissanayake’s own personal view it that art is a part of the biological makeup of an individual. It is a normal trait, just as normal as language or anger. Art is so important to humans that it is ingrained in us, just a part of our human nature.

Along with other tendencies common to human nature, such as being sociable, making something special is also a common behavior. Making something special describes making something out of the ordinary, something original to you. It is something that makes us more evolved than animals. Making something special is crucial to the beginning of the behavior of art. Intentionally making something special whether they believe it is art or not, usually results in something artistic. It helps us as humans grow, making special helps us to make art.


Thinking about Dissanayake’s term Paleoanthropsychobiological really gave me a good perspective on art. This reading really challenged me at first and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. After reading it a few times, I was able to fully understand the different perspectives for evaluating art by learning about the origins of art and art history. Sometimes it is easy to forget how long art has been around and how many cultures it has influenced. I think that in order to appreciate anything, it is imperative to know the background story. Reading Dissanayake’s piece really helped me to appreciate art because I feel as though I understand it better. I agree with Dissanayake when she says, “art must be viewed as an inherent universal (or biological) trait of the human species” (Dissanayake, P. 15). Art is just as important and as natural as traits such as language and sex.

Dissanayake believes that this behavior of art all came about by deliberately setting out to make something special, or unique to the individual. Making special is a fundamental human need. She says, “we can see it in such simple things as when we cook special meals and wear special garb( see Artifact 3 for more information on the Art of Personal Adornment) for important occasions,” (Dissanayake, P. 25). Doing so usually results in something artistic. I am still not convinced that making something special would automatically qualify something as art. This is where the different perspectives for evaluating art comes in. I have come out of this assignment with the mindset that even if I don’t take something to be aesthetically pleasing or enjoyable, I should not appreciate it any less. Every culture is different and has different takes on art, just as every individual does. I believe that what really matters is making something special on your own terms.

Learning goals for the future:

I would like to continue to learn about different cultures and their ideas of art. Every culture has such a unique history and perspective and it would be interesting to compare to our Western ideas of art. Looking at all the different types of art, I would be challenged to think about my own views. I feel like by learning about new cultures, I will be more open-minded about art as well as more accepting as what qualifies as art.


 Dissanayake, E. (1991). What is art for? In K. C. Caroll (Ed.). Keynote adresses 1991 (NAEA Convention), (pp.15-26). Reston, VA: National Art Education Association. 

Move to:

Portfolio Page

Last Artifact

Next Artifact


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: