Part of the argument with my boyfriend included his testing what I thought was art and why. He threw out things like photography (yes), elegant code (no, because code is a tool for making art), and Bowerbirds’ nests.


While I’m not a PETA wingnut, I do believe our current, complex intelligence that includes creating art, language, and religion, evolved. I think other animals have pieces of that evolution as well. I don’t think we’re better than other animals, although I am strongly concerned about human rights issues.

So, since our brains evolved from simpler brains, it makes sense to me, as a totally untrained evolutionary biology enthusiast, to say that there might be other animals that make rudimentary art of a kind. And now that I’ve looked at bowerbirds a little more closely, yes, I think that they make is art — it is an intentional, creative communication of an emotion from one bowerbird to another. What are they communicating? “You should have sex with me.” Isn’t that the basis of a lot of art?

Here’s a couple of bowerbird nests:

Check out that arrangement of green, fading into grey. It's really beautiful. Did I mention bowerbirds are also decent architects? Those straws were set up like that by the bird.
Artwork in progress. Bowerbirds favor different colors, depending on species and, apparently preference of females. I wonder if human artists are the same.

This is particularly striking to me, because it reminds me of a combination of Andy Goldsworthy and Lisa Bagwell, two really brilliant modern artists.

Here’s some of Andy’s work:

And Lisa’s:

The examples on her Flickr are way more interesting than those, by the way.

Okay, I am probably seeing what I want to see, but why would you consider bowerbird nests not art? It fits my definition of art pretty well.

Oh, and in my search for bowerbirds, I ran across this, which is pretty fantastic: Hands as Objects of Art. Hand puppets will never be the same.

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