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?

cave-art

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.

we-are-best-friends-forever-teddy-bear-graphicNeurotypical bears.

Remember: The image is the meaning.

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Official People / Owning Art by explaining Art

2 thoughts on “Official People / Owning Art by explaining Art

  1. I would like to learn more about your take on experts’ explanations of the meaning of cave art. This should be a great read, though maybe exhausting to write.
    Researching art, it’s sometimes useful even for academics to consider the artist’s perspective and the objective reality of his life. But of course they can’t interview artists who died 35.000 or 10.000 years ago. They might thus take into account what it means to face the daily threat of being eaten alive. Scientists might like to spend some years among people like the piraha (if kindly invited), like the former missionary you’d mentioned in another post, or at least spend some months alone in the Canadian woods. Still far from experiencing being a palaeolithic hunted, but it would help to see some things a little clearer. Some experts who are being irrational could do a better job even if they never left their campuses. I guess they’re just not willing. (I’m only talking about “bad science” here)
    I recall an art historian writing about an artist turning to very small formats in a certain period of his life. After discussing the artistic decisions that might have lead to this, she mentioned the obvious, that “could have played a certain role”: He had been on the run, trying to escape the Vichy regime and the threat of being extradited to Nazi-Germany. Which he managed, marrying Peggy Guggenheim – another artistic decision. On the move, no money, little time = only drawings, small formats, if any.
    Sometimes it is that easy – artist had no money, needed the money, did it for fun, was drunk, was pressured by his agent and so on…
    The art historian did not write about a distant ancestor, whose world she cannot possibly imagine, but about a 20th century German, like herself. Still didn’t get it. (Ockham’s razor? No thanks, I don’t shave)

    Hand stencils on a cave wall… Such wonderful selfies. I guess they were familiar with positive prints of hands on human bodies, but that’s much different. Obviously, sometimes the whole group could participate. ” Hey, we’d like to invite you all to the paintings’ cave. Just put your hand against that rock… Yes, you too. Don’t be shy?” Much amazement, giggling and laughter involved in such sessions or were they done in silence and great seriousness? Drums and dances?

    Finally, art. Not only owned by the ruling class and “owned” by their personell, but fully and totally commanded via the “free market”.
    The answer for artists: Surrender, exile or death (again!)
    Preferably exile!

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    • I’m drinking my first cup of coffee, so bear with me. I’m lagging on posts because it’s a hot spell (low 90s for days and many more to come) and my computer room is just too hot in the afternoon to continue.

      Yes! As an Asperger my views don’t fit in Art either. Too “rational” There is still an going tradition of technical excellence,mainly in artisans, but an awful lot of politically-driven crap is what gets funded and displayed. I found myself in Grad school with people I couldn’t stand! Idiots applies to artists as well. What a great word. Did you know that its origin is Greek; applied to people who don’t participate in the life of the Polis? Art has suffered the same degradation as the rest of U.S. culture: The “machine” scrapes up images from street life, along with some kid who can be turned into a celebrity; introduces it to the wealthy class at gallery openings at obscene prices, and then passes it on to corporate America to advertise crappy products. Slave laborers in developing countries turn the “art” into T-shirts, kids toys, rugs and curtains, etc. Puke!

      Maybe I need more coffee? I have a post about ready to go that is an Academic A-hole’s review of a zoologist’s identification of which (real) animal species appear in cave paintings, including the conclusion that much of the “other” markings fall under adolescent male graffiti. Heresy! It’s the perfect contrast between imaginary supernatural concepts and realistic commentary. But yes, it’s very tiring! I’m collecting photos of contemporary hunters and “Man Caves” to compare with paleo caves. People joke about “Man Caves” but it’s a tradition at least 40,00 y.o. Pretty important! Male culture has taken a beating lately.

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