Tuesday, January 08, 2013

cave of forgotten dreams [2010]

finally watched this excellent documentary yesterday at my mother-in-law's house.  she recorded it for me as she knows i love the work of werner herzog.  what impressed me the most about these electrifying paintings on the walls of the chauvet caves were not their age, 32,000 years old, but a moment in the film where herzog says that one painting was touched up by another painter 5,000 years later and that history was not a fact of these artists lives.  we make an artifact of the past while the chauvet painters lived within the present.  5,000 years between painters was a continuation of the present.  but for us that is an unbelievably long time.

of course herzog made this film for viewing in 3d.  i watched it on television without 3d, and really i think 3d sucks.  the gimick is soon old and often gets in the way of storytelling.  in other words, i am not missing anything when i say i'm not missing the 3d.

herzog hints at what music the culture of these painters might have created.  i wondered about their poetry.  what might their poems and stories have said and sounded like.  herzog has a way of finding individuals who are just at the edge of society.  exploring music of these cave painters the director interviewed a scientist who recreated an ancient flute of the same vintage of the paintings.  the scientist was wearing inuit furs and boots because it was the ice age and the clothing was probably the closest we can come to the cave painters' dress.  when the scientist made notes on the flute he made a little tune that was very like 'the star spangled banner' which made me think of faulkner's line that the past is not past because it hasn't even passed. 

what dreams there are still.  the fact of the works of art are a proof that dreams and waking sometimes blend into the present.  it was a gorgeous detail to have another scientist point out the hand print of a painter who posessed a crooked pinky.  such a detail brings that painter nearer to corporeality.  he was -- i suppose i and the scientists and herzog assume that the painter was a man, maybe the painter was a woman?  who knows -- a human being who lived and created.

and those handprints are what i think of as the signatures of the artists.  the handprints are the evidence of their creators and the force of creation.  these handprints are signal events in the currents of time.  we humans create because we live today and 32,000 years ago.  it matters not that we don't know the names of these painters -- for yes of course they had names -- because we can witness their works and marvel at their will to endure.  art is a human endeavour.  we do it singly and collectively because we are alive.   


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