Artifact #2 – What is Art For?


  • Explore a brief history of Western Art.
  • Consider the origins of art.
  • Examine multiple perspectives for evaluating art.

Original Assignment:

Paleoanthropsychobiological is a term that is used to suggest that art includes all of human history, includes all human societies, and covers the face that art is a psychological or emotional need and has psychological or emotional effects. This term was original coined by Ellen Dissanayake, and she uses this term to describe her view that “in order to include human history, human cultures, and human psychology, art must be viewed as an inherent universal (or biological) trait of the human species, as normal and as natural as language, sex, sociability, aggression, or any of the other characteristics of human nature.” (pg. 15)

Dissanayake explains the phrase “make special” as to “make special” things that someone cares for or activities that have aftereffect with a big meaningful significance. Ellen describes making special as a fundamental human productivity or need. This idea is related to art and human survival because art is something that needs to be “made special” by the artist in order to be unique or considered art.

One theory of art is postmodernism and it insinuates art as interpretation. The time period when this was developed was around the 20th century. Ellen describes how using this, artists and everyone else “interprets art according to their individual and cultural sensibilities.” (pg. 20) This theory shows that art can be fundamental and essential to everybody and the fact that we are actually able to find art everyday.

Another theory of art is modernism. This theory was developed during the 18th century and it was when a genuine appreciation for art truly started. Modernism was when individuals really started to focus on the ideology behind art and its different forms, and what inspired each different type of work. It was “a concern with elucidating principles such as taste and beauty that govern all the art and indeed make them simply not paintings or statues.” (pg. 17)

One last theory of art is art that is from Greek and medieval times. This theory shows that regular people’s interpretations of art are completely different from the work of real artists. Art was pretty much used as a way of religion in those times. Dissanayake describes that art is “having a correct understanding of the principles involved,” (pg. 17) as opposed to the ways of what we think art is.



I chose this artifact because I believe that art is a necessary part of any type of culture, no matter where you are from or how you have been raised. Any type of art form created by a specific person shows their beliefs on the world, which is coming from their own culture and society. Ellen mentions how “art must be viewed as an inherent universal (or biological) trait of the human species.” (pg. 15) In saying this, I think that she was saying how art is a completely natural behavior for any type of culture, and that whatever art is made by any type of person, should be encouraged and appreciated by anyone in the human species. This helped me to consider the origins of art because since there are so many people in the universe and everyone is raised by different types of societies, imagination and creativity should be the main focus when evaluating art from another region of the earth. You should appreciate art no matter where it is from.

There are definitely multiple perspectives for evaluating art although I think that people choose one type over another because of the way that they were raised in their society or culture. The way that someone was brought up and influenced definitely plays into what kind of art they appreciate and tend to be more drawn towards. Even Dissanayake states how “the species-centered view of art I have developed here claims that there is a valid and intrinsic association between what humans have always found to be important, and certain ways-called the arts- that they have found to manifest, reinforce, and grasp this importance” (p. 26). Overall, each individual can be responsible for making the type of art that they truly appreciate and can be proud enough of their creativity to show to others so that others can really appreciate.

Future Goals:

Because of this, I hope that in the future, I can appreciate art no matter where it comes from or what society it is from. I feel as if I am already very appreciate of all different types of art, but I hope that I can value every single type of art that someone has passionately created.


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.

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