This post was intended to be an examination of “expert” explanations put forth by academics as to the “meaning” of cave art, but…
No one knows what’s “going on” with humans and yet “discovering” who we are is a fundamental project that consumes entire Western Cultures. I sense a weariness in people today that comes from this incessant pre-occupation. “Who am I?” quickly devolves into “Who am I supposed to be?”
The picture that we are shown of “America: Land of immigrants” is always uplifting; escape from poverty, tyranny and war; tough times, but eventual success; happy new citizens waving little American flags. New generations of “foreign” Americans owning homes, businesses, and gadgets, and doing their best to dress like “official” people. Too eager, too accommodating, too much “I love America.” I wonder who it is that these ardent new citizens are trying to convince?
It’s obvious that not all newcomers identify with “Official America” – which actually doesn’t exist. Nor do the majority of native born citizens identify with official America. What social humans fear the most is the possibility that no one is “in charge” ergo, the popularity of gods: it’s a comfort to believe that invisible parents are in control; obedience implies a master.
Speaking from my personal Asperger “way of being” it is apparent that in early childhood I found no reassurance that adults were reliable authorities as to “how things work”. There were no foundations of thought, but merely incessant arguing about who is right. Right always had some absolute force behind it, but the validity of authority fell apart with even the most simple challenge.
Contrary to popular conceptions of Asperger children, I think that like other people, we want someone to “know what’s going on” to “be in charge” and for there to be some sensible and reasonable explanation for human behavior and our existence. But deep down in my intuitive thinking machine, (I can’t apply this to all Aspergers) I have always known that this not true. My Asperger father had solved this dilemma by believing in engineering, technology and the hard sciences. At some point in his teens he had jettisoned humans as impossible complications in a pure mathematical world. I saw this as unfortunate, and although people were hugely problematic, I believed that their actions and behavior were understandable.
After all, humans had produced things that I loved: drawings, prints, paintings, sculpture, design – anything and everything that spoke to me. I discovered that the majority of artists were not “official people” but messy people; awkward, scared, searching and obsessed, infuriating to “normal” people. Disobedient. Willful, even crazy. If lucky, they found people to encourage and protect them. Most could not support themselves, but many of their works generate billions today for museums, auction houses, dealers and an underworld of theft and fakery.
Modern social typicals tend to believe that somehow an artist’s post-death destiny of “fame” and high dollar value, must compensate (in a magical way, of course) for having a crummy life and justify the “funny money” involved in the official Art World as somehow supporting the arts; of course this illusion comes from literally owning the art. Ownership is the point; many wealthy people have no clue as to what it is that they own.
My haunt as a teenager growing up in Chicagoland was the Art Institute of Chicago, and without that exposure, I doubt I would have discovered myself to be a “visual being” – there is always a startling reaction to seeing “live” objects that had before only been available in books. How many children never have the experience of visual intelligence, but grow up on Cheetos, pizza, smiley stickers and purple talking dinosaurs?
This process of ownership by purchase, academic commentary and theory generation, and supernaturalization – no surprise – of art extends into the far distant past of “cave art”. It’s another case of Neurotypical narcissism – modern social humans truly believe that the humans who produced exquisite pictures of animals, as well as geometric forms, doodles and hand prints, and who coaxed images from natural geologic forms within those caves, who hunted a wild landscape for a living; endured physical hardship beyond what we can likely imagine, and risked (and were) being eaten alive by predators, were merely modern neurotypical humans who lacked laptops with word processing programs, which, if they had possessed, would have been used to verify the outlandish texts now published by academics.