What I find most remarkable about this article is that early humans across the world had the same idea at roughly the same time: to leave their hand-marks on cave walls. While Professor Stringer suggests that this would indicate the custom originating in Africa before humans spread to the rest of the world, I’m not completely convinced. A quick google search states that humans left Africa 1.75 million years ago, and were established in Southeast Asia 1.6 million years ago. It seems to me that 150,000 years is a long time to travel, with significant cultural evolution along the way. While I’m not a scientist (or a Republican!) it seems a little improbable that the same custom could survive unchanged for that length of time. I think it’s more probable that the custom of cave painting was independently generated at roughly the same time. Why? Because this is what happened with many tools and the primordial craft objects such as the cup, the knife, the axe, and adornment. In either case, it’s certainly intriguing to think about.
For my “cave painting” I was inspired by the documentary we watched to go and make my own “documentary” on modern “cave paintings”. I thought this would be more interesting than making an imitation painting, and I also enjoy the implication that people who deface the landscape with spray paint are rather primitive. I ended up having a lot of fun making this, to my surprise. I’ve never done anything similar before and ended up improv-ing everything except the first clip which I rehearsed several times. It got easier the longer I did it; I felt that I slipped more and more easily into this “character” as I went.
Everyone’s favorite language in middle school! After reading these articles, what sticks out to me is how scientists are able to use the arts, such as writing and painting, to infer more about a culture and it’s environment beyond that which is written. For example in the articles we were assigned to read the authors were able to distinguish what kinds of vultures were common in Egypt at the time, and the possibility of another writing medium than clay. As a craftsman it makes perfect sense to me that there would be a different word for writing in clay than writing in wood – both are very different materials with a different working experience! Another example of this is how art historians are able to look at backgrounds and details such as clothing and household objects in paintings to determine a little bit of what life was like at the time.
For my project I decided to use the idea of writing based on animals commonly found in the environment. As insects are the most numerous species on Earth they seemed like a good choice for characters. I also decided to make my alphabet phonetic, and without letters such “c”, “q”, and “w” that can be made with other letters. I also was inspired by the Anglo-Saxon writings and decided to make a “th” and “ing” character, like thorn. To develop the characters I made a rule in which they had to fit in a square divided into a 9-square grid, and the 4 corners always had to have a character touching them. Further, as a loose rule I grouped the letters into vowels, and different consonant groups, which I tried to limit to the same character that was then rotated to indicate a different letter. This ended up being a very loose rule.
Cabinets of Curiosity:
Two quotes stood out to me from this article:
“I will always prefer a cabinet of wonders to a museum, as it has a completely different function from either a museum or a big state gallery. Whereas museums and galleries are edifying or “aesthetically cultivate” us, a cabinet of wonders initiates us. After leaving it, we are transformed. Museums are objective; a cabinet of wonders is subjective.”
“I’ve been collecting things my whole life. Their artistic, collectable, or actual value is not the decisive factor but rather the imaginative power glowing out of them, which can melt my spirit, that in turn can transmute base into precious metals. There are many formulas for producing a sorcerer’s stone. The old alchemist manuscripts mention sulfur, mercury, salt, or lead, but not the chemical elements of sulfur, mercury, and salt; rather they are “live” sulfur, “live” mercury, “live” salt. It’s similar with the objects I collect. These are only “live” objects, full of substances, memories, and emotions, which have gone through a ritual. And although they are usually old things, which already have the essential part of life behind them, with me, it’s not an antiquarian interest.”
The first quote I picked out largely because I disagree with it. Museums are intended to present important artifacts and art (the two are separate) in an objective way. However, what is deemed significant, and how it it presented, is decided by the curator of the museum. This can make a huge difference in our understanding of the objects, and even which objects we get to see. Therefore I would argue that museums are also subjective, though it is perhaps better hidden.
The second quote describes how I feel about collecting as well. I “collect” antique hand tools, feathers, and historical blacksmithing techniques. To me the monetary value is not important, but that the objects strike a chord within me, or are relate-able to me in some way. They feel “alive” to me, in the same way certain elements were distinguished as “live”. I think this is why I am so drawn to historical blacksmithing techniques rather than modern metalworking approaches – they feel more alive and in touch with the material to me, and I think they are more intelligent ways of processing material. I don’t mean to say that it’s necessarily the “best” or most efficient way to do , but they feel less mediated and simplified, and more in touch with physicality.
I chose to present some parts of my collection in my optometrist’s tool chest. It is itself something I have collected and use, and it also functions well as a cabinet in which to discover things. I placed within it feathers, tools, and a few things I made such as a key and a compass. I felt that seen as a whole they seemed to imply adventure, inquiry, exploration, and curiosity. A combination of old made new, old as old, and natural beauty, all of which are important aspects of my artistic research.
I found the article useful in the different designs it showed as well as the sources for lenses, which I may actually use in an upcoming metals project.
My camera obscura was based on the idea of a home video recorder. I made it to vaguely resemble a large camera with a giant projecting lens, with a receiver for my cell phone so actual photographs could be captured. It took some experimentation but I found the focal length of my lens to be 10 inches. Unfortunately, after making the focus work I made the mistake of hot-gluing the inside of the box so the focus couldn’t fit inside. So, it only focuses well on objects a certain distance away. However, as the interest of taking this kind of photograph is largely in the way it distorts images, it doesn’t bother me too much. I ended up taking pictures of sights around campus and abstracting them through the natural inversion from the camera, the soft focus, and by shooting from unusual angles and distances.
What I found most interesting about this article was how the panorama was an early version of a movie theater, and film as an illusion of objectivity. Much in the way that people used to believe that the relay of information through “official” channels such as radio and television, it seems that people were intended to accept a revisionist history of the American conquest of the North American continent as somehow better than the preceding invasions by the Spanish and French. I find it fascinating that even until very recently mass communication was regarded with more trust, while today media of all sorts are open to questioning and a certain amount of distrust. Perhaps this correlates with the increased ease of publishing. These days nearly anyone can publish a book, or make a video, or take a photograph. As ease of distribution increases, reliability decreases.
My project features different ways to create a surrounding environment using light. I envision making a shade of sorts of cover a bright light source, such as an LED bulb or 100W light, or even a candle to imply motion with it’s flickering illumination (much as cave paintings are believed to have done). This shade could feature scenes of trees, whose branches could appear to move and shake from an unsteady light source.
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