Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

In this documentary, Werner Herzog films the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc, where cave paintings were discovered in 2004. Put by some archeologists at around 30,000 years old, they are said to be the oldest cave paintings on record, and twice as old as any previously found.

In 2004, three French cavers walking in the vicinity detected an air current brushing their cheeks. Tracking down its source, they scraped away at rock until they unsealed a cave that had been closed for millennia. The French government allowed Herzog’s crew privileged access to the cave.

We see paintings of tender-eyed bison, soulful horses, rhinoceroses hitting horns so you can almost hear them ringing with the sound. A lioness with lips puckering in warning displeasure as a male lion angles for sex when she’s not ready.

The cave walls undulate as voluptuously as the hills of the region in the South of France, and the ancient painters have made use of the rock fluctuation to make the animals seem as if they were still in motion; the horses seem still to gallop. Eyes of animals are drawn with sensitivity, as if the artist were evoking not simply the flesh but the soul as well. Over the muscled shoulder blades, just beyond the charcoal-scraped outlines, seems to hover the numina of the herd.

The cave painters set fires in the cave, casting their long shadows against its walls, now filled with stalactites and stalagmites, and one expert evokes the image of them dancing with their flickering shadows, an art form in its own right. In this interesting era, Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals coexisted, and yet, only our Homo Sapiens ancestors constructed such symbolic work.

One expert in the era explains that many of our modern divisions, for example that between humans and animals, would simply not have held in the psyche of these Pleistocene action painters. Beast of beasts, beast among beasts. A woman, denoted by black pubic triangle and powerful legs, is made love to by a bison.

A modern indigenous painter is asked, Why do you paint? He replies that he does not paint. Rather, the spirit paints, and his listening arm moves, brushes, allowing deep spirit to form.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wars of Choice, Wars of Need?

Today's headline in the New York Times: Looking Back, Gates Says He’s Grown Wary of ‘Wars of Choice’
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, as he prepared to depart the government for the second time, said in an interview on Friday that the human costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan had made him far more wary about unleashing the might of the American armed forces.

“When I took this job, the United States was fighting two very difficult, very costly wars,” Mr. Gates said. “And it has seemed to me: Let’s get this business wrapped up before we go looking for more opportunities.”

“If we were about to be attacked or had been attacked or something happened that threatened a vital U.S. national interest, I would be the first in line to say, ‘Let’s go,’ ” Mr. Gates said. “I will always be an advocate in terms of wars of necessity. I am just much more cautious on wars of choice.”
May we remember this the next moment we're faced with a military intervention. And yet, as we recall, both the Iraq and Afghan wars he speaks of were sold very strongly as wars of need. Not wars of choice. How, at that time, could we have convinced decision makers that those were not wars of need?

Wars of choice. The phrase rings of the right to an array of choices at the heart of consumerist society. Is that what got us into this?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Oil Water Rushing Rushing

A video installation Moises and I collaborated on and showed at our Open Studios at the Berkeley loft June 11-12.

Moises' description: Artistic collaboration by Poet/Musician Tiffany Higgins and Filmmaker/VIsual Artist Mois├ęs J. Nascimento creates a piece that blends music, poetry, filmmaking. A poetic response to the BP Oil Spill incident this past year and the death of life in the ocean. The assemblage piece has a fishbowl over the video playing horizontally on a table. Inside, you only find sand, a beer bottle, an old tire and a cell phone.

See the video