Aloi, Preface to Art & Animals
George Stubbs, “Whistlejacket” (1762)
Aloi quotes Laurie Schneider Adams, in a book on contemporary art, as claiming that “spiders, unlike humans, are not inspired by aesthetics or narrative ideas.” The artistic instinct, according to Adams, is innate in human beings and foreign to animals, and this, by implication, is one of the things that separates “us” from “them”. Aloi suggests that, by regarding the spider’s web or weaver bird’s nest as something that’s created by pre- programed instinct, Adams makes a clear distinction between the animal’s innate activity and the conscious, deliberate creation of the artist. Aloi also suggests that the web or nest “has a practical, material purpose” (and so can’t be a “work of art”). Any thoughts about this? Doesn’t a lot of art have “a practical, material purpose”? Perhaps human art also originated as an instinctual, oblivious way of attracting a mate. Perhaps it still serves this function? Is my writing this sentence really very different from a spider throwing out its silk?