The Dance of Evolution (or the start of art)

Every Tuesday, I look forward to reading the Science Times and Health section of the New York Times. Although I never excelled at science in school, I always manage to find an article that sparks my interest. Today’s Science Times has an article on the evolution of art, a topic that deserves more attention. I am particularly struck by (and agree with) the argument that the arts arose to bring people together and serve as community-based activities. The article’s author writes:

“Through singing, dancing, painting, telling fables of neurotic mobsters who visit psychiatrists, and otherwise engaging in what Ms. Dissanayake calls “artifying,” people can be quickly and ebulliently drawn together, and even strangers persuaded to treat one another as kin. Through the harmonic magic of art, the relative weakness of the individual can be traded up for the strength of the hive, cohered into a social unit ready to take on the world.”

The author also points out the pleasure that people get from the arts. Even as she clumsily danced the hora – taught by a neurobiologist! – at a symposium on the evolution of art, she felt “free and exhilarated…just as a dancing body should”.

I’d love to hear others’ thoughts on the start of art. Is the artistic impulse innate? Or is it learned through culture? Or is it a combination of both? Has art in the Western world become too individualistic and focused on the “elite stage”, and less focused on community? Read the article here.

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