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ZERZAN, John. "The Case against Art"

"we see the earliest evidence of symbolic division, as with the half-human, half-beast stone faces at El Juyo."

Article published on 19 July 2005
last modification on 27 April 2015

by r-c.
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Art is always about "something hidden." But does it help us connect with that hidden something? I think it moves us away from it.

During the first million or so years as reflective beings humans seem to have created no art. As Jameson put it, art had no place in that "unfallen social reality" because there was no need for it. Though tools were fashioned with an astonishing economy of effort and perfection of form, the old cliche about the aesthetic impulse as one of the irreducible components of the human mind is invalid.

"we see the earliest evidence of symbolic division, as with the half-human, half-beast stone faces at El Juyo."
John Zerzan

The oldest enduring works of art are hand-prints, produced by pressure or blown pigment - a dramatic token of direct impress on nature. Later in the Upper Paleolithic era, about 30,000 years ago, commenced the rather sudden appearance of the cave art associated with names like Altamira and Lascaux. These images of animals possess an often breathtaking vibrancy and naturalism, though concurrent sculpture, such as the widely-found "venus" statuettes of women, was quite stylized. Perhaps this indicates that domestication of people was to precede domestication of nature. Significantly, the "sympathetic magic" or hunting theory of earliest art is now waning in the light of evidence that nature was bountiful rather than threatening.


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