chauvet 24-11-2011

the other night i watched the cave of forgotten dreams, werner herzog's documentary about the chauvet caves in the limestone cliffs above the ardeche river in france, which were discovered in 1994 and which contain the oldest known cave paintings in the world, 30 - 26,000 bce. rhinoceroses, cave lions, horses, panthers, bears, the stencilled outline of an artist's right hand, repeated throughout the cave, the same man identifiable by the crooked little finger of his right hand. i'd been drawing all day and really did feel as if i'd picked up what the indigo girls once called, in a rather different context, a kind of telephone line through time.

as always, there was talk of shamanism and the spirit world and the porous border between the human and the animal. and as always i thought to myself, if you can draw well then drawing is often a source of pure pleasure, just as running or singing are often sources of pure pleasure for people who can do those things well. the orhtodox view of palaeolithic people is that they weren't as clever as us but were much more spiritual, which says, i think, more about us than it does about them. we rarely think of them as ordinary. we rarely think of them as just human beings. i see those drawings and i think, if you could draw like that would you need a reason? would you need a ceremony? would you need a job as a priest? wouldn't you just want to draw?