France Field Notes

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  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    $hat becomes immediately evident is the sheer amount of noisy chatter amongst the

    grou". $hich is sur"rising given that there a""ear to be only four children on the tour,and they are actually uieter than the adults. &s the train "roceeds through the cave

    this chatter continues over the to" of the cave guides commentary. /es"ite the fact

    that ' can understand only small "arts of his commentary, ' find the evident disregardfor his words a little disturbing and distracting. &s the tour "roceeds this will "rove to

    be evidence for a much greater disregard of the cave art itself * a refusal to allow

    oneself to be uiet, to reflect, to loo%, to see, to hear and to thin%. resumably all ofthis must affect the ca"acity to feel. "on seeing the first wall relief (two mammoths!

    there is an audible inta%e of breath from the grou" * and a brief interlude of silenceduring the cave guides commentary. 2owever, by the time we have "roceeded to the

    second wall relief (a horse and a mammoth! there is no evident sur"rise and thechatter returns over the to" of the guides commentary.

    ' found this to be utterly distracting, to the "oint that the first wall reliefs seemed

    silent * did not really s"ea% in an affective sense of their sub+ect, time or "lace.2owever, u"on seeing the drawings of the three rhinos, ' e#"erienced a momentary




  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    ut these wor%s, their voice, their solemn recordings of the dynamism, vibrancy and"lenitude of life (some of it now e#tinct, e.g. mammoths!, has been drowned out,

    effectively silenced.

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    $e no longer seem to come to these "laces with an e#"ectation of mystery, of

    difference, of otherness. The voice we carry, the voice of the self, ubiuitous and ever-"resent, wont allow these other voices to be heard any more. $e dont even seem to

    loo% anymore.

    The clamor of nature (of eing! ca"tured here has been drowned by the clamor ofself, the "resent and the familiar.

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    &s Siobhan said on the drive bac%, they are mere museum "ieces. reserved, yet

    seemingly lifeless. They have been 7museumed8 by the "lace * the gift sho", thelights, the train, the tour guide * but they have also been 7museumed8 by all of us

    who go to see them. 9ur lac% of ca"acity for affective mystery, o"enness to the

    overwhelming vertiginous otherness of time * this weight of ancient time and the

    strange "arado#ical uality of its tem"oral "ersistence, seems lost. 9ur loo%, ourattitude, our e#"ectations trans"ort them into the dead time of the museum, instead ofthe e#traordinary "resence trans"orting us into the strange interflow between the time

    of lifes flow and its eternity.

    Les y!ies " Le Ca# $lanc, %onday 2&thJune

    $e drove to 3es :y;ies today, arriving around ont de ?aume. nfortunately, tic%ets had sold out beforewe reached the %ios%. ut we were able to get some tic%ets of 3e 5a" lanc and 3es5ombarelles. >rom a conversation we overheard whilst standing in line, there is a

    conference ta%ing "lace today and tomorrow of 'nternationalrehistorians&rchaeologists. The &merican woman ueuing behind us was a

    "rehistorian, and was conversing about the "henomena of the desire to "roduce

    s"eculative inter"retation 6on the s"ot as o""osed to scholarshi". She was bemoaningthe inter"retative naivety of many who visit the caves, and their desire to im"ose

    determinate ideas u"on them (often without a gras" of the 6hunter-gatherer milieu ormindset!. &s ' listened ' felt a certain degree of sym"athy with her view, however '

    am not at all comfortable with restricting aestheticaffective a""reciation to historical

    6e#"erts. 't made me thin% of 'an 2odders idea of inter"retative "luralism. &t theirmost basic the artwor%s inscribe ways of seeingthin%ingfeeling that are common to

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    our s"ecies. 9f course this is not everything, and to believe so would be grossly na@ve,

    and ris% im"osing a tyranny of the "resent. A6's it "ossible to understand ""eraleolithic art without recourse to analogy y using analogies, do we not sim"ly

    create a "ast in the image of the "resent (/avid 3ewis-$illiams, The ind in the

    5ave, ". 4B!C A't is going to be im"ortant to distinguish the wor%s of art in the caves

    from modern $estern ideas of art. This is im"ortant in order to defend myself fromthe accusation that ' am merely conflating a contem"orary "ers"ective with a hunter-gatherer one. The accusation that ' would merely be "ro+ecting an ina""ro"riate

    ontology and e"istemology of art onto these wor%s. (&s 'ngold would maintain *

    indeed he would uestion their very attribution as art!. ' want to develo" a moreso"histicated understanding of the wor% that would still allow me to tal% of their

    aesthetic affectivity. ' thin% this calls for an account that would augment 'ngoldsargument that they are embodied "oetics of dwelling * an affective identification of

    landsca"e, "lace, and identity * a collective sense of dwelling, inhabitation and

    environment * which will necessitate and legitimate the turn to "hiloso"hical accountsof the artwor% * but more im"ortantly of the affective aesthetic e#"erience. Dant,

    2eidegger, erleau-onty, ataille, /eleu;e and 3evinas. There is a real need tocom"letely reconfigure the artwor% and aesthetic e#"erience in the light of these early

    wor%s * rather than the other way around (which would involve illegitimate

    "ro+ection!. This is a different tas% * but "erha"s one of the %ey aims of the wholeboo% * to shift the territory regarding art and aesthetic e#"erience altogether. 'ngold is

    an im"ortant source for this recalibrations, fro brea%ing with a merely modernist"ro+ection and fantasised encounter. (&lso 2odder.!C 2owever, there are im"ortant

    as"ects of the wor% which are grounded in a shared sensibility. This shared sensibility

    transcends history and culture. & heightened a""reciation of the hunter-gatherermilieumindset, which can be generated through archaeological and anthro"ological

    scholarshi", would almost certainly guide and assist inter"retation, to locate it withina more a""ro"riate hermeneutic. 9bviously if one could have a much better gras" of

    the guiding "rehistoric myths this would also hel" us to locate the art more

    a""ro"riately. ut we do not.

    Euite sim"ly, the absence of "rofessional e#"ertise should not "revent us fromengaging aesthetically with these wor%s, from being affectively moved. The im"ortant

    "hiloso"hical orientation is Dant. 5once"tless, wordless, affective. This is not an

    im"osition of alien ideas, which are com"letely ina""ro"riate, rather, it is a faithfulengagement. & ta%ing u" of the affective thread. & "artici"ation in a continuum of


    9nce we "urchased tic%ets we went to the museum in 3es :y;ies.

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    This has been rebuiltrefurbished com"letely since ' last visited in F00F. The first

    floor is dedicated to archaeological and geological e#hibits. The second floor to a vast

    collection of stone, bone, ivory and antler tools. The diversity is uite immense. Thereare several e#cellent videos which demonstrate the manufacture of flint and

    boneivoryflint tools.

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    Seeing this "rocess reminds me of the e#traordinary degree of subtle manual craft

    involved * the detailed %nowledge of material and its manual handling. 'm alsostruc% by the formal symmetry in many of the tools that seems to go beyond utility.

    9bviously, in later "eriods, there is an evident aesthetic concern with many of the

    tools, some of which are elaborately decorated with ;ig;ag "atterns, animalre"resentations or are actually formed into animal scul"tures suggested by the sha"e

    of the antler or "iece of bone being utili;ed.

    ' am reminded of the old uestion of "ure decoration (art for arts sa%e! versus dee"erreligiouss"iritualculturalsocial meaning. erha"s it can be both. $hat does seem

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    obvious is the direct lin% between some of the tools (bone s"ear straightener!, their

    "ur"ose (to straighten shar"ened bone s"ears for hunting animals such as bison, deeror ibe#! and the animal re"resentations carved u"on them.

    This is surely beyond mere mnemonics * i.e. indicating a tools "ur"ose or goal toothers in a literal way * and is evidence of a continuum. This continuum is one of

    thought, one that remains recogni;able to us * from tool * "ur"ose * decoration.erha"s the decoration is there to heighten the "ur"ose in some way, to intensify the

    success of its goal. 9n the to" floor of the museum there are a number of "ortable"ieces bearing artwor%s.. The most stri%ing for me today is the bison, its head flungbac% over its body, its tongue "rotruding, clearly lic%ing its hide.

  • 8/12/2019 France Field Notes


    The scul"tor has negotiated with the "iece of reindeer antler, s"ent time considering

    its nascent form, and called u"on a so"histicated and detailed set of observationsregarding a bisons natural behavior. $ith great s%ill, delicacy and figurative finesse,

    the scul"tor has a""lied lines and engraved forms to allow the bison to emerge from

    the antler (a "rocess of formal creativity we see re"eated in much u""er