www.nicholastresilian.com brings together papers, presentations, synopses and additional material relating to a project with the working title The Evolution of Western Art. The project explores connections between our memes, our ecological evolution and the human economy, as revealed through 40,000 years of visual art: the evolution of Western art in the past 1000 years supplying us with a particularly reliable ‘tracer meme’ for cultural evolution itself. This is by no means an academic issue. Today our ‘tracer meme’ can be seen as a marker for upcoming cultural changes likely to be as deep and far-reaching as any changes experienced in the past millennium.

Portrait of Nicholas Tresilian
Nicholas Tresilian (2019)

While there is a wide range of content across the site, including films, talks, powerpoint sequences and personal reminiscences, the following three papers provide a good starting point for my art historical work: 

A) SEMANTIC RECIPROCITY: TOWARDS A NEUROSCIENCE OF CULTURAL CHANGE. This paper was published in 2011 as the concluding essay in a Chicago University Press volume on neuroscience and the arts under the title A Field Guide to a New Meta-field, a collection of essays by divers hands, edited and with a brilliant introductory essay by the eminent art-historian Barbara Maria Stafford. The paper can be read as an introduction to the ideas driving The Evolution of Western Art summarised below.


B) THE EVOLUTION OF WESTERN ART. The short-form synopsis for a new evolutionary ‘story of art’ setting Western art in the context of the full 40,000 years of sapient art-history. It draws on the theoretic material given in more detail in the University of Chicago Press paper above. It may be read as the framework for an eventual short book bringing art, ecology and the human economy together into a single narrative.


C) AFTER CAPITALISM. This paper, originally given at the conference: Future Matters: Futures Known, Created and Minded (Cardiff University 2006), merges two long views – of art and of economics respectively – to suggest that scarcity rather than plenty may yet have the last word in our newly globalised machine-ecology and that the arts may yet turn out much more central to human survival than they currently seem.