21 June 2010

The Original Art Act

What is foreign, is interesting.  Recently read Cory Doctorow's "Craphound" where a technologically advanced alien race visits Earth and trades important technology like weather control units and artificial photosynthesis chemistry for basically yard sale finds of historic Americana like cowboy related antiques, Betty Boop coffee mugs, abandoned shopping malls, and defunct amusement parks.  Reminded me of Bruce Sterling's aliens in "Schismatrix Plus" who upon encountering humans were all business.  The main thing they wanted from us was art.  Advanced aliens don't want our technology, only the thing that makes us unique.  Jane reminds me this is a common theme in historic science fiction.

This is a common theme in humanity also.  Any advanced civilization "discovering" a more primitive one isn't all that interested in their technology.  Wood and stone spears are no treasure to a civilization that has harnessed steam power and metal casting.  Discoverers are interested in their art or culture.  Art and culture is the shadow DNA of people.  Helps us understand how consciousness defines the cold, vast universe and reinforces our own definition of it.  Comfort.  Comfortable and I'd say beautiful too.

That original art act is the idea I'm after.  The one that happens in the caves of Lascaux.  The one that is seen in the artwork of Aboriginals in Australia and the more refined examples in the plains and Southwest Indian artwork in America.  Simple stick-like figures of tree, man, bison, hunting spear, moon, stars, sun.  These are examples of the original art act.  Looking at the environment and reproducing it in graphic form.

I love those wood carvings of the Northwest Indians.  Obvious influence from Polynesia.  I love the characters of the Mississippi valley Indians but I see Central and South American influence ala Mayans and Aztecs.  Sequestered, like the Aboriginals who had their own undiscovered continent for so long, were the Indians of plains and Southwest in America.   The same primitive characters on pottery, textiles and on hides brought to a higher level of graphic perfection.  Beyond that, an abstract language of geometric shapes arose.  Original is the key word I'm going for here.  I'm not the only one that considers this valuable i.e.  the Ute Navajo chiefs blanket found in 2009 worth half a million dollars composed of black and white stripes.

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