Thursday, 9 October 2014

ART FOR ART'S SAKE.



The re-dating of these  Indonesian cave paintings has aroused controversy among those who already knew of them and delight in newcomers to these, what would we call them, tracks of our tears, aides memoire, expressions of our need to express ourselves, early  signs of our boundless  image-ination.

It seems that there was, hitherto, an expert  belief that  the creation of  the earliest European (Spanish) cave art, dated at 10,000 years ago,  represented, coincided with an increase in the brain size of homo sapiens, was an embodiment, in a way, of EuroSupremacy.  It turns out that the nig-nogs were doing it long before the white folks and now, with the reassignment  of  these Indonesian works to a period 40,000 years ago, the art historians' house of cards collapses Well, it would wouldn't it, history being bunk, art history being snobbish bunk.

Following some online commentaries and discussions  about this re-dating one finds academic vitriol and showy Know-It-Allism mixed with quite understandable sentimentality, newcomers, as I said, confessing to floods of tears, at the sight of these images, touching them, across millennia. I know in which group I belong. 

I was intrigued, further,  to read  that Australian aboriginal art, 75,000 years old, is being destroyed by GlobaCorp's mining activities in Western Australia, doing the right thing, creating wealth and employment for hard-working families.  I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised.

However impossibly complex it becomes, what we call technology can be understood as - for it is - an amplification of  an existing, opposable-thumbed, humanoid bodily function; rock, club, hammer, pile-driver and so on, these amplify the fist; the earliest saw, an animal's jawbone, complete with teeth, amplifies the tearing of fibres with our own canines and incisors; the wheel amplifies the foot;  the spyglass or the Hubble telescope, these amplify the eye; writing amplifies the voice, in fact replacing the previously rhymed and remembered knowledges of pre-histoire, that vast passage of time before the symbologies of language could be chipped from stone, written on skins, scratched on papyrus or stored, magically, in digital retrieval systems, like this one.  

Sometimes, it all seems so simple, technology; Art, though, that's a whole other barrel of monkeys, Art, unlike a club or a stone axe, serves no readily perceptible practical purpose; nobody needs to make Art but  something drives us, most of us, to do it or consume it or both.  And it isn't just the Whatever-You-Can-Get-Away-With tossers, like Tracey Emin, worthless, in it for the money;  decent people, too, are driven to make something they have imagined, something that hadn't been imagined before.
 

It may have been seen, originally, as magic, representational art, may have been an adjunct to shamanism, as is so much Christian art and architecture -  you know, knowledge kept secret from the laity, like priests and lawyers and doctors do; it might just have been clever-monkey curiosity and while there is certainly technology in finding and using the colouring materials, the urge to do it, for its own sake,   that, like the need for God, 40,000 years ago or today,  
is something else.   
God and Art, just my imagination, 
running away with me.    

30 comments:

Bungalow Bill said...

Sometimes I worry that there might be a God or Something Similar, there to deny us the pure human delight of creating for ourselves in a universe of death, creating technologically and artistically, porous categories of practical action. But of course it is always just us, and I am very glad of it.

mongoose said...

Those hand images in negative are in caves all over the world, mr I, and from times immemorial. It is the common leaving of something behind, a mark that any one of us was here at all.

call me ishmael said...

Yes, mr mongoose, it's just that these particular images turn out to be 30,000 years older than previously thought. I did see, years ago, that the hands were made by an oral spray; either that or an early compressor.

It would be great if, as you say, they were the original of Kilroy Was Here.

My curiosity is not rooted in that they did it or how they did it but why they did it ; what would prompt the thought: let's invent a pointless, decorative activity?

call me ishmael said...

If, as Reason dictates, it is just us, mr bungalow bill, why do we so fervently invent Him? And is all art executed in His pursuit? Is each successive opus a flight from its predecessor, a race towards His artless, Eternal Rest? Is Art's theme song, Bob Dylan's psalmic Lay Down Your Weary Tune, lay down, lay down the song you strum, and rest yourself 'neath the strength of strings no voice can hope to hum?

Anonymous said...

Carlos Castaneda's creation Don Juan used to tell him to "find your hands" as a means to stay focused in a lucid dream. Distant cousins waving at us from the dreamtime? (At least some of us are waving back - the rest are just flipping them the bird.)

verge.//

Bungalow Bill said...

We create, including our creation of God, because we die and because we know that we do. Death is the mother of beauty said Wallace Stevens.

call me ishmael said...

"In a world where Death is the hunter, my friend, there is no time for regrets or doubts. There is only time for decisions."

You made me reach, mr verge, for my Castaneda collection. I couldn't find it.

call me ishmael said...

That is very sweet, mr bungalow bill, but Death is also the mother of much else, such as fear and sorrow and on another day Wallace Stevens would say so. You know me - poets, how dare there be poets?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't lay my mitts on a copy either, Mr Ish, but I reckon we remember the bits we might need.

v.//

Mike said...

Hard to imagine the poor souls in those caves all that time ago. Only their wits and fieldcraft to keep them alive. Precious few other humanoids around in the world and all manner of sabre toothed beasts hungry for a feed. You wouldn't want to be ill or infirm.

On the other hand, they were free from all the shit that seems increasingly to dominate our lives.

Once there must have been a golden age, a happy medium, before a race of arseholes became ascendant determined to dominate. I know were on the downslope now.

call me ishmael said...

Yet despite the threats from a hostile environment they still found time to invent painting.

You are probably closest to a Dreamtime, mr mike, although I only speak with a lingering feeling of Bruce Chatwin's Songlines, read nearly thirty years ago; the aboriginal of what we now call Australia being, perhaps only in myth, both self-contained and spiritual, capable and connected, knowing and innocent. From what travellers tell me, the Abo is now a figure of scorn, the winebox, filled with cheap wine being known as the Abo's Handbag

I draw your attention, by the way, to a comment on the last Evensong thread.

call me ishmael said...

It's a feeling I can summons from the Castaneda books, mr verge, rather than chunks of text. I guess that means that they worked.

Mike said...

Re the destruction of Aboriginal art in Western Australia. Its not only GlobalCorp doing the detroying, but the Abos themselves.

Near where I live, the State owned land which the local Aboriginal Council - yes there is one in my neck of the woods, even though there are not many (if any) abos around - said had cultural significance. Yes there are paintings etc nearby - on my local golf course there are rock sculptures, areas where you have to take your shoes off to retrieve an errant ball. But within hours of the State handing over the land to the local Aboriginal council, it was on the market for residential development. Where the money ended up (and we are talking prime land worth millions) is anyones guess.

mongoose said...

Bad craziness there, Mr I. I could have sworn that I had typed the Kilroy thing and it had got lost. Blogger sure is screwed up these days.

The aboriginal politician is now of course just another parasite bastard. Yesterday's reformer, yesterday's justice-seeker is today's huckster. Aboriginal politician? That's an oxymoron isn't it? It used to be. Back in the dreamtime perhaps.

The Ashes cricket last year was prefaced by the silly singing of silly colonail and anti-colonial anthems and a "welcome" from some local aboriginal "leader". Waltzing Matilda, God save Jerusalem, same as the old boss. All songs from movies long gone. At least the abo with his winebox knows that almost all of it is crap and soon to be dust. Do you think that it can just be an accident of production that the art is there but the hand isn't?

Doug Shoulders said...

The question has often intrigued; at what point in human history did it happen that a certain set of characteristics were imbued to certain human types that enabled them to conduct human nature to serve their selfish ends.

Some cataclysmic events occurred where the warrior would lead the people to safety. These events are manufactured now. We are all doomed but if you pay me your taxes and allow me control I will save the world.

I think all humans have that set of characteristics, but most folk can’t be arsed. I prefer art. .

callmeishmael said...

Illustrated by all parties, mr doug shoulders, in last night's Fruitcake jamboree, more arseholes to lecture us, in exchange for millions of our pounds.

Art or craft, they are much the same to me, in fact the latter, with its lack of pretence, is the more inspiring. My last house was Victorian and had a party wall in the back garden, separating us from our neighbours; a brickie came to shift it by a foot, backwards, into their space and I watched hoim take it down, brick by brick, cleaning and stacking each brick and then putting it back up again and when it was done it looked as though it had always been there; it was like watching Nijinsky, not l'apres medi d'un faun, more apres medi d'un chisel and hammer and trowel.

It has been a while now but I used to be able to find a rhythm and a harmony in the execution of tasks and projects; it is, I guess, a pleasure which fewer and fewer will now know.

Doug Shoulders said...

Bed messers and sheep slicers is what we're supposed to be appreciating these days mr ish. Before that it was blue on white shite and the like. I don’t bother with it..art isn’t meant to revolt.

Your bricklayer probably has “If a job’s worth doing” etc in his ethic. There are still many of these people around but becoming fewer. Too much exposure to cunts with negative integrity.

Paul Roach said...

When I sculpt I find that it draws me in, recently found a large chunk of oak on the beach in Dysart, took my chainsaw down and started carving it into a bottlenose dolphin shape, humped it home, planed the contours out, and as often happens, wondered what the world seemed like to a dolphin during these processes,
There is something quite searching in the imaginings of the human soul, something reaches out from us to understand existence itself, the whys and hows drive everything from science to medicine, those of us who fall below those levels of interest, well, it manifests itself in arts of one kind or another, acting is a study of personalities, history the study of society, in short, everything,for me at least comes full circle back to the need to understand ourselves and why we exist in the first place,
It has certainly been a prevailing theme in my life since a child and something I find in every aspect of life, I especially like the description of us having searching natures,seeking to understand our place in the universe and the powers or processes which brought us about, seekers after god if you like, that very thing which gives us cohesion is the whole mystery of it all, and the vastness of 'everything' delights my mind, A small part of me is excited by the idea of death so that I might know the unknowable, is that a bit stupid or what? Im sure by now there are not many original thoughts open to mankind, I suspect im not alone in my wonderings.

SG said...

I see that Malala is back again, Mr I. Finger wagging, lecturing us and 'winning' awards for doing so. That reedy voice - I have to switch it off. I'm sure I'll burn in hell for saying this.

Bungalow Bill said...

As one of the world's physically inept, I envy any who, like Mr PR or your craftsman builder Mr I, are able to shape and mould and who have the dexterity to place things truly. Art must have technique if it is not to be mere self- indulgence because it needs to make itself fit to be seen. I saw an excellent programme about the great English craftsmen in wood recently, Grinling Gibbons was one of them and who would say he was not an artist? As we've said before what about the anonymous stonemasons and engineers who built the old cathedrals?

Anonymous said...

Heinrich Kissinger...Warlock Obama...Malalalalalala...

As Mark Twain almost said once, a Scandinavian joke is no laughing matter.

verge.//

callmeishmael said...

She is a repugnant little monster, carrying, I am sure, the cocksure malevolence of the late, Benazir BhuttoGob, peace and blessings be upon her bullet-riddled corpse, and destined, one can only pray, for a similar fate. I blame the parents.

That's precious, that is, mr verge.

callmeishmael said...

If I had to do it all over again, mr bungalow bill, a taciturn stone-mason I would be; I love the feel and the pliability of hewn trees but when wood is eventually dust the stones stand still.

SG said...

Yes Mr Verge, those Scandanavians have a dark sense of humour - 'verging' on the macabre I'd say...

blackholesunset said...

The materials and choice of location, let alone the mesmerising images themselves, speak of a technology which was, even at the time, very mature.

Hard to imagine there weren't earlier examples, now lost, or as yet undiscovered.

DtP said...

There's a bit of a problem with age and time makes significant bluster and destroys invention. These lads or lasses, bored in a cave whilst it's pissing it down outside, thought nothing of permanence but simply of experiment and distraction and yet 40 fucking thousand years later their Tuesday's futility demolishes cathedrals and empires. The cheeky bastards.

I think craft is art - it's funtion serves itself and us but its beauty reminds us of God. There are buildings i've walked into where my knees stop working and the only comparison is perhaps a dam good diva - these fucks prevent me from walking and they proper know it too.

I wonder what sport is - where in the scheme of things sits a glorious 8 iron shot, it must be somewhere for God certainly loves golf or why would he have made sand? And if that's not a total fucking waste of time, well, should probably chloroform a badger or something.

call me ishmael said...

A lot of it is re-enacted hunting or war, mr dtp, sport; hence the keenness of our masters on us watching football and stuff like that, better we cheer a bloodless goal than take to the streets, hunting Tories, like you.

Athletics, too, I think, has martial origins; golf, though, that's God taking the piss ouit of people with too much time and money.

I agree with you about craft, more or less, although it would be one fuck of a building that compared with Beethoven's Sixth, or Ninth, or Fifth or any of them, really.

call me ishmael said...

I don't know what to make of any of it, mr bhs, I read all that von Daniken stuff when I was a kid, Was God An Astronaut, how comes there's six thousand year old batteries in South American ruins, how comes the builders knew that it took the Earth three hundred and sixty five AND A QUARTER DAYS to circle the Sun, while we were living in mud huts. It's discredited, now, all that von Daniken speculation about the Ancients, maybe it shouldn't be.

DtP said...

I think golf's got a bad press. It's been taken over by twats and corporates who aren't very good at it. It always amazed me & my chum when we were kids, still does to some degree, that you had these guys with £5k sets of clubs and couldn't hit it nearly as good as us with our £20 a set jobs. Fuck 'em. I guess it happens in all sports - as soon as it becomes popular it gets hijacked by some sponsorship tools, it's just that golf has such playing longevity that guys are still playing in their retirement and therefore more their affluent days that there's more money to fleece. Titanium shafted clubs? Really? Much the same as Ferraris I guess, the target market for people who can afford them are the ones who are too old to properly drive them - get a Ford Mondeo and save a couple of hundred grand.

I guess golf is hunting - 4 iron, low flight, rounded pebble - certainly stun the bugger but the strike rate's probably not too cracking - mind you, if my school javelin experience is anything to go by i'd have been lucky to spear an apple.

callmeishmael said...

Not, mr dick, if the alternative was starving, you'd soon get the hang of it.

Since modern golf is supposed to have been invented in Scotland maybe it was origanally a type of slingshotting and they just fucked it up. You'd only hit a very low-flying bird, wouldn't you, hitting stones with a stick.\