The Animal SubstituteAn Ethnological Perspective on the Origin of Image-Making and Art Marjolein Efting Dijkstra


The Animal Substitute takes art research in a new direction. It combines art history, ethnology, anthrozoology, analytic aesthetics, and art sociology to capture the sociocultural embeddedness of art without driving the material art object to the margins of attention. It reveals how new art and image practices can originate in the present and closes with a meditation on how art and image-making may have originated in the Palaeolithic past.

Art works need not start their lives as art. Many older works that museums now present as art were originally created for utilitarian purposes. Most art today, however, is created as art and does not need to undergo a functional change to assume this role. Such art practices may nevertheless have their roots in utilitarian practices. Marjolein Efting Dijkstra explores how art practices—which produce non-utilitarian works—can originate from utilitarian practices. She does this on the basis of North American duck decoys and other animal substitutes that originated in utilitarian contexts.

Marjolein Efting Dijkstra is a Dutch art historian and ethnologist. She received an M.A. in art history from Utrecht University and a PhD in the humanities from the University of Amsterdam. She currently lives in Germany.