26 Feb 2024 17:15 - 19:00 CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, 7 West Road, CB3 9DP


An event by the Cultures of Camouflage and Mimicry among Human and non-Human Animals research network.


Lorenzo Bartalesi (Scuola Normale Pisa)


We will be joined in person by Lorenzo Bartalesi from the Scuola Normale in Pisa, who will speak about camouflage and mimicry from the perspective of evolutionary aesthetics:

‘Animal and human camouflage in the light of evolutionary aesthetics’

The affinity of the heterogeneous field of camouflage behaviours with that of aesthetic practices is illustrated by the wide variety of concealments and disguises that we can find in the arts, rituals, and fashion. An undeniably seductive and affective aspect permeates these image-making practices. This affinity is present not only in the world of humans but also in that of many other species. In my talk, I would like to address the fundamental question concerning the relation between animal and human camouflage through the lens of a further question: whether camouflage and aesthetics among human and non-human animals are related, and if so, in what ways we can define such a relation.

The methodological approach adopted will be that of pluralist and anti-reductionist evolutionary aesthetics that disengages the category of ‘aesthetic’ from the prevailing romantic and idealistic tradition and restores centrality to Darwinian aesthetic theory within the framework of the evolutionary approach to animal evolution.

Starting from a consideration of camouflage and aesthetics as kinds of biological communication that operate according to a mode of evaluative coevolution, I would like to propose the general hypothesis that the situational nature of mimicry shares major primary cognitive capacities with the aesthetic selection operating in the context of sexual selection. On this basis, placing the question of camouflage and mimicry in the context of aesthetic evolution will allow us a deeper comprehension of the nature of the animal camouflage, its evolutionary history and, most importantly, its specific human development in artistic and cultural practices.

For enquiries please contact the Research Networks Programme Manager.

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