Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Elephant painting

There's a phenomenon going on here and there where elephants are being allowed to paint.

Here are a few examples from the adult female Kamala at the Calgary Zoo in Canada.

Now the elephants themselves aren't known for being especially outspoken skeptics, but the art they create makes me think. It makes me question what art is and whether we have fooled ourselves into believing that is what the elephants are making.

I've seen the show and the Kamala seems really happy to paint, however I also noticed all the praise she got for doing so. So is she painting because she wants to or because she's been trained to?

Is an elephant capable of making art? Does the art mean anything to her? Is there emotional expression? Is it actually art? If this is art, what does that imply about our development as a species?

I'm curious if the painting is a consequence of the elephant psyche combined with opportunity or a concequence of human influence and training. I'd really like to believe that the elephant wants to paint and this is evidence of rudimentary desire to create and express. It seems considerably more likely that the elephant is just reproducing trained behaviour.

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