Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A sense of place in time

This post belongs to the edition #14 of the language/place blog carnival, the theme of the edition is: "Locating the Senses"

(from the anthropological museum in Mexico City)

Last night we watched a Werner Herzog docu that here is called Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about Chauvet Cave in France where beautiful 35,000 year old paintings were discovered. It was during an ice age and there was an ice free corridor to southwestern Germany, to the Swabian Alb, which made me think of you. Here's more about it: wiki / Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

It is fascinating to see our history like this, these traces they left but with so many unanswered questions.

Thanks for sending the link to the Werner Herzog docu. I read about it during production, but then missed the film release. Now I looked up the place of the Chauvet Cave in France. Seeing it on the map, I realized we drove past the region last September: it is near Avignon, the city that is also close to Mount Ventoux, where we stopped on the drive back. So I actually crossed the region where the groups of people in former times lived. Here's an image from the drive:

In an article about the caves, the scientists stated that the paintings happened during a time span of six thousand years. And that the paintings were saved in time as a huge stone plate shattered down at some point, and sealed the original entry of the cave.

There are so many interesting artistic aspects to this time, 35,000 years ago or so. Just the fact that they used the caves for painting and whatever else they did there, maybe ceremonies, for thousands of years makes you stop and think about the short history of our culture. It was such an effort to get far back in these caves and provide light, and most of these drawings are so amazingly exquisite. It makes me wonder if they learned and practiced painting somewhere else, and only the masters of painting used the caves.

Then there was the ice free corridor to Germany, so there was connection there, flow. And in Germany they were doing beautiful carvings, like those little Venus figures, but also others. And making flutes, ones that use the same pentatonic scale that modern music uses. Yet at this same time there was another kind of humans, Neanderthals, who supposedly lacked this kind of art.

The little Venus figure found in Germany - I thought about it today when driving along the mountain plateau not far from here: the Alb. Which actually is the region the Venus figure was found. It's almost overwhelming, to think back all those centuries - all those years and generations.

And they found some other relicts in that area, just some months ago: 4 stones with tiny paintings. The stones carry the oldest painting found in Middle Europe so far - here's a screenshot of the article with photo:

One of the scientists explained that the dots on the stone might resemble a religious relict, or a menstruation calendar. They also look a bit like a code.

There is this heartbeat by heartbeat, breath by breath history that connects us so deeply under the surface of the moment. It connects us not just with others in this time but also back through time.

Looking at the stone painting, I had another thought about this, that to me it also relates to the draft of the poem I sent recently, Trillion Page Diary:

Through each day they endured, despite the dangers,
persevering until the mate was joined,
and particles of critical accumulated information passed,
a next generation conceived.

It is a diary of life,
of which she is the current chapter,

written in this living language
whose alphabet is said to have but four letters only.


The four letter gene code, and the painted code. And then: the code of a poem, the same words like the usual language, but another approach, speaking from and to another layer of our mind and soul.

And this now again relates to another text - the book that I was reading recently. It's from Sandra Davies. Maybe you remember her contribution to the “language/place on the edge” carnival edition: a story set in Neolithic time: Curve of Learning. That was the first part of a story-in-3-parts. I now read the whole work, it’s online with illustrations here: Edge: curve, arc, circle.

(Sandra Davies, from "Edge")

In the comments of the first publication of the "Edge" story, Sandra wrote: "This was a story I worked hard with to ensure that the antiquity of the voice came over as intended, and yes the rhythm was important too. I've been visiting Isbister since 1982 and Ronnie Simison, the farmer who put the ring together, told me the tale himself, as he told us of his discovery and initial excavation of the burial chamber. I've held the skulls and seen the bones and lain in the tomb, and stood by the hearth at Liddle - it's a deeply heart felt story, and was important to me to tell it."

This book looks very interesting, Sandra Davies' one. And it's so beautiful about the way Sandra connected, physically and on all levels, and it leads to her putting her heart into her writing. I find that so inspiring. It does connect directly to Herzog too. This is fascinating, the way all these seemingly scattered pieces connect just now. I really should not be surprised because it has happened so many times now, yet each time I am surprised (and delighted).

An afterntought: today, I put the call for the next language/place carnival online: Stella Pierides will host the March edition, she sent her call this yesterday, with the focus theme for the edition. It's "Locating the Senses in Language / Place - Does a place associate in your mind with a smell, an image, a sound?...", here's the full call:Language/Place Edition #14 - How to join

Reading her call, I thought: this also connects to Sandra Davies’ book, and to Herzog’s film. Both were sparked by a place. And both tried to share the experience of being in this specific place by creating a work that captures the sense of this place in time - and choose a combination of senses to communicate the place: Sandra with the story and her paintings, and Herzog through his docu film, which also is a combination of image and text. He used 3D technique to be able to capture the details.

We could create an e-dialogue again for it. Any chance you have a photo that connects to the theme as illustration, too?

I like your idea of collecting related things. I have some not very clear photos from Chaco Canyon of symbols scratched on rock, but let me see what else I can find....

I put some images in the dropbox, in a new folder called cave of dreams. Maybe it should be cave of remembered dreams? : - ) Please have a look and let me know what you think.

(from the anthropological museum in Mexico City)

The photos, I really surprised myself when I started looking yesterday. All of those are from the anthropological museum in Mexico City. I am sure the first cave painting one is a reproduction of European cave art, but I don't know which one. Lascaux is the most famous, so possibly that is the one. And the second rock painting is a reproduction of Anasazi art, if I remember correctly.

There are many fascinating objects that were found there. And the span of thousands of years that these rituals or whatever they were had these people, whose lives could not have been easy, whose survival must always have been threatened, making time for creating musical instruments and carving figures and painting these dot codes, and going deep into caves with great difficulty to make drawings and paintings. It must have been very important to them for those thousands of years. It is so fascinating to look beneath the surface of now.

Wow, your images! The first one, with the animals – that almost looks like from Chavet. And yes, the span of thousands of years, it’s hard to imagine for our minds, even though we are surrounded by reminders of creation that took thousands and millions of years: the hills that surround us, the valleys, they all were shaped over long spans of time. But mostly we don’t see them as something that is in a long slow process – but rather something static.

[One Week Later]

Guess where I've been to today? In the past. Such a good coincidence: Last week, while driving through my hometown Esslingen, I noticed a poster with an artifact on it. Turns out, there is an exhibition on right now in the "Stadtmuseum" - the city museum. It'a about the neolithic artifacts that were found in the area in the last years. And of course, I had to go there now. Here's a photo of the museum, with the poster as flag in front:

The name of the exhibition is "Feuerstein  und Keltengold" - "Flintstone and Celitc Gold."

It’s a smaller museum, but carefully arranged. In a way, a really good home contrast to the Pinakothek Munich. A friend of mine was interested in the exhibit, too, and so we met up there. Temperatures were freezing, with the Siberian cold arriving, around -6° to 2°, but sunny. Inside it was warm, of course - but looking at the small artifacts on display: arrowheads and flintstones, pieces of vases and other tiny details - we couldn't help but wonder how those tribes made it through the winters of this region.

It was fascinating, to to walk through the rooms – starting long past, and then moving towards present. All the relicts are from this area, and we knew a lot of the places they were found. Two artifacts were especially stunning, vases with a face:

There aren't any notes delivered from the time they found the relicts - they didn't leave any written notes. "The first mentioning of the "Kelten" tribes and settlers dates back to Herodot in Greece, in the time of 6 centuries B.C. It seems the Kelten themselves avoided written documents," one of the museum guides explained to us.

The Stadtmuseum also has a floor where paintings, photos and everyday items of the closer past are on display. One of the paintings showed the old town hall, the one I walked past on the way to the exhibit - and looking at it, the outside reflected in layers:

The afternoon, it really felt like a bit of exploring time, like travelling at home.

Wow, this exhibit looks fascinating! And all the more so because it is from your area, from places you know. It is so personal, like the descendents of those people might be living there still.

Thanks for sending the photo. The artifacts are beautiful. Such artistry. It is like we discussed with the Indian baskets: art was important to these people. Theirs was a vibrant culture, not just survival skills.

I'm sure it was interesting to share it with a friend, too, as she is another artist.

Yes, it was interesting to visit together. And even though it was a smaller exhibition, it held so many things to see and learn and reflect on. Afterwards, we went for a coffee in a new place. My friend had brought a book about the history of Esslingen, and we browsed the pages of it - the book has photos included, but that also made us realize that photos of artifacts don't give an idea of scale. Like prints of paintings, too: You don't really know how small or large they are in reality. And standing in front of them, you get a different feel for them - a closeness, an idea of their fabric, their vibe. There's something about the physical character of things that you grasp with more than your visual sense. It's probably also where the desire to touch and connect come from.

"When I go for the next walk, I will take a closer look at the ground", my friend stated. Which also brought this different layer of place again: all the people who walked along the trails here before us, who rested and settled in places that now are marks on the map, even for our walks today.

"It would be fascinating to have a sense for that," I thought again on the drive back home. To be able to see those layers of the past, in a place.

Some related links:

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