Mimetic performance, cognitive evolution, and mixed creatures




NB this talk on May 23, 18:30 BST (London time) is ZOOM only. You will need to register on eventbrite here for the ZOOM ID.

Recent developments in research on the possible role of mimetic communication in cognitive evolution – as a necessary precursor to spoken language – are used in conjunction with various other theories to explain the putative survival of certain forms of mimetic performance after the evolution of spoken language should have made them obsolete. It is argued here that such mimetic performances were perpetuated and further developed because of their powerfully adaptive nature – their ability, amongst other things, to address new forms of mental and emotional adversity that the evolving human consciousness would expose early humans to, such as the awareness of death. The persistence and further development of such mimetic performance alongside fully developed spoken language would leave a deep imprint on the evolving human mind. I argue that this imprint can be seen in widespread mythic conceptions of primordial androgyny, as well as in therianthropes, dragons, and other mixed creatures.

Deon Liebenberg is a research fellow at the University of Stellenbosch’s Africa Open Institute, where he is currently doing his PhD in Visual Arts. He completed a B.A. in Fine Art at the University of Cape Town and an MTech in Architectural Technology at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. His research focus is on the relationship between myth, ritual, fine art, and cognitive evolution.