Steps Toward an Evolution of Images: Prehistory to Industrial Capitalism
In the acknowledgement that it is now possible to project the end of the biosphere using technologies enabled by industrialism, it is incumbent upon artists and designers to redirect their practices in a way that counters the unsustainable. The separation of the fine arts from design at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution has enabled design to actively contribute to the unsustainability of the biosphere, and has encouraged the fine arts to play a passive role, concealing this condition. This paper attempts to explore whether there might not be a valuable space to recover, one that existed prior to the separation of the fine arts from design. Beginning with an understanding of the evolutionary value of art in prehistory, the paper uses a framework derived from evolutionary theory to examine the utility of images within society, using canonic examples from art history as well as images derived from design. Can a more unified approach to the historical study of works of fine art and design offer insights not yet captured by the separate disciplines of either art or design history? Although the paper modestly provides only an exploratory model of looking at specific images, it is hoped that an awareness of the symbolic utility of images might contribute might suggest a way forward towards a new model of practice that could actively confront the condition of unsustainment.
Keywords: Evolution, Memetics, Imagemaking, Art History, Design History, Prehistory
Associate Professor, Communication Design, Pacific Northwest College of Art