Friday, October 18, 2002
: . The Cro-Magnon Imagination:
From Past Present by John Berger:
- For nomads the notion of past and future is perhaps subservient to the experience of elsewhere. Something that has gone, or is awaited, is hidden elsewhere in another place. For both hunters and hunted hiding well is the precondition for survival. Life depends upon finding cover. Everything hides. What has vanished has gone into hiding. An absence - as after the departure of the dead - is felt as a loss but not as an abandonment. The dead are hiding elsewhere.
Commentators remark with astonishment that the paleolithic painters knew the rudiments of perspective. When they say this, they are thinking of Renaissance perspective. The truth is that anyone at any time who draws or has drawn, knows very well that some things are nearer and others further away. What changes is how this experience of observing some things coming forward and others receding, is pictorially articulated within the dominant view of what space means. This view changes from culture to culture. Perspective is not a science but a hope. Traditional Chinese art looked at the earth from a Confucian mountain top; Japanese art looked closely around screens; Italian Renaissance art surveyed conquered nature through the window or door-frame of a palace. For the Cro-Magnons space is a metaphysical arena of continually intermittent appearances and disappearances...
The Cro-Magnons lived with fear and amazement in a culture of Arrival, facing many mysteries. Their culture lasted for some 20,000 years. We live in a dominant culture of ceaseless Departure and Progress that has so far lasted two or three centuries. Today's culture, instead of facing mysteries, persistently tries to outflank them.