What Was First? What Will Be Next?
What’s Next? Is the title of the book I am currently writing. The project has steeped me in a quest for the elements of ‘now’ that are likely to be projected as conditions of ‘later’. I use the words ‘pioneer’, ‘venture’, ‘avant-garde’, and ‘new’ so often, I fear I may tumble into the future unknown. Thus, I am hoping to regain my balance by pursuing a comparable exploration backwards in time.
Please join m in imagining the wondrous time, long ago, when the impulse to create an image first arose in the minds and spirits of early humans. The French artist, Hubert Duprat, believes this breakthrough predates cave art, despite the fact that painted depictions of animals on the walls of caves comprise the introductory chapter of most art history surveys. Duprat surmises that prior to rendering with pigment, early humans created images by arranging their hands near a blazing fire to produce animal-shaped shadows on the opposite wall. This manner of artistic depiction required no tools, no mediums, and no technical knowledge. Yet the willful construction of a two-dimensional image to represent an entity that occupied three dimensions marks humanity’s auspicious entry into the world of art. Duprat revived this tradition by sculpting animal-shaped shadows in flint that he chipped in the manner of early humans.
Then, sometime during the Early Stone Age, some ingenious hominids figured out that it was not necessary to accept the configuration of stones and sticks they gathered.. They could alter the shape by chipping flint and polishing stone. The date of this originating impulse to alter the shape of material keeps being reset as archeologists discover earlier and earlier evidence of this transformative occurrence. A cache of stone tools was unearthed in Kenya as recently as 2015. It reset the date for 3.3 million years ago. The oldest known figurative carving in the world is believed to have been created between 233,000 and 800,000 years ago. That is when the Venus of Berekhat Ram, a crude form of a nude female was created out of volcanic rock with a sharp-edged stone. She marks the auspicious beginning of the correlation between the history of art and the development of material technologies.
I feel much better. Now I can return to the equally obscure evidence of the future.