Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Market share and the past: part 4.

Disintegrating pie. Soon, no one will see the pie at all.
The past is increasingly being divided up, but "having a slice of the pie" might not be the best way to look at what is happening. We hear of "stakeholders"; "warring camps"; "special interest groups"; "opposing theories". We have historians; archaeologists; mythographers; curators; dealers; collectors; taxonomists; and many specialists within these areas. And there are academic; independent; hobby and commercial interests.

For a short time during the cold war I had volunteered to work with the RCMP Security Service as an an operative to combat a terrorist threat. An agent explained to me who the real enemy was: it was not the terrorist group I had stumbled upon, it was the instigators of that group. They had no interest at all in the problems and aims of the minority group involved, all they wanted to create was division within the country, "to break its backbone", the agent said. The instigators would create the terrorist groups along what is now called the clandestine cell system, but back then it was called the communist cell system because the various groups here were instigated by the KGB at that time.You can see how it evolved from the structure of the lower levels of the Soviet Communist Party. There would be only one person within any given cell who would have contact with someone in another cell. As there was a never-ending supply of instigators, the agent told me, prosecuting any of them through legal system was just a waste of time: more would arrive before the process was even completed. I decided that I did not want to hear any further clarification of this matter. All I had to do was to gather intelligence and I would regularly meet with various agents to pass that on. No agent was allowed to come into personal contact with anyone who was being investigated. Everything was done through operatives. We were the "cannon-fodder". We were expendable

Minority groups were, and are, being used in many different ways and it goes far beyond terrorism: they can be used as justification for new laws (which can then be used for other purposes); they can be used for international shady deals. There is no end to their usefulness. And there are so many of them. Of course, any power that they have is something bestowed on them and it can just as easily be taken away again. They have no power of their own.

In any statistical analysis of anything, there is always a danger of having samples that are too small when the data is divided into questions. At such times the questions have to be reworked to be more general. There is the joke about the specialist who knows more and more about less and less until everything is known about nothing. Powerless things come in small packages.

The best way to lessen any interest is to break it up into smaller and smaller pieces. A corollary to this is that the best way to increase any interest is to apply many different methods to it. In archaeology, interdisciplinary methods are always being promoted but not always very effectively. I have seen "interdisciplinary conferences" where most people just experienced only that which was within their own specialty. If the building had been sentient, it would have benefited from what was being spoken about within it  but building are not sentient. At such conferences, any sort of unity is an illusion that just makes people feel better.

Transdisciplinary pie
The interdisciplinary pie is really just the pie that gets gets sliced up and everyone hopes to get a big slice. But there is another sort of pie that is far better than the interdisciplinary pie and the disintegrating pie as it never vanishes into almost invisible crumbs: You look at it in slightly different ways and in different lights, but it is always whole. Not only does the pie stay together, it keeps improving. This is the transdisciplinary pie. Everyone gets a whole pie! Unfortunately, although transdisciplinarity is being used for all sorts of social and industrial applications, it is barely even spoken of with regard to the past. Its absence, however, has been noticed and we will look into that tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Monday, 30 May 2016

Market share and the past: part 3.

The missing link: British Celtic sword pommel in Jacobsthal's 'Plastic Style' , late 3rd century BC, found in Oxfordshire. This was the first (and possibly only) example of the Plastic Style to be found in Britain. A metallurgical analysis has proven that it was also made there. It contains the earliest example of the 'British trumpet' motif, explaining its evolution, has the world's first example of oblique anamorphosis and is the only example of that effect in 3D. It also explains the path that British Celtic art took after the atelier of the immigrant central European smith ceased operation and the technology was lost: from high-relief repoussé with chased "simulated 3d" decoration to the ultimate 'Mirror Style'.  In my collection. (image: Public Domain)
Last week, a friend of more than forty years was in town so we got together for a couple of meals. I brought along a couple of the "stars" from my collection to show her. Whenever I show anyone the sword pommel illustrated above, they always ask "How much is is worth?" and I have to explain that any value is speculative until established through (usually) and auction sale. As value is based on supply and demand, pieces that are completely unique are difficult to value. There is no problem on the supply side: the object is unique. The difficulty lies on the demand side. Obviously, there can have been no demand for the object before it was known to exist, so that side of the matter is mainly decided by the popularity of the type and quality of the object and the popularity of the culture to which it belongs.

There is another term used in art sales that has a dramatic effect on the value of anything sold at auction, and that is "important". When you see this designation it means (or should mean) that the object shows quite a bit about the development of the art or the artist. A lesser-used term for anything below that status is "good". That term means that it is a typical example in its design and is of high quality. Paul Cézanne is best known for his landscape, portrait and still-life paintings. Were a painting by him of his neighbour's dog to show up, it would fetch far less than anything in those other categories because we do not associate that subject with Cézanne. Sure, it might be unique as an object but art collectors far prefer something representative of the art or the artist. Rarity can still add considerable value, for example there are a lot of late paintings by Picasso and the name, alone is going to guarantee a high price, but anything that is sold from his "blue period" is going to get an astronomical price. Not only are such paintings much rarer, that period was important in his development and enjoys a lot of fame as well.

I am fortunate with my sword pommel because the Plastic Style is extremely rare; very popular; and highly important. On the down-side, most people would like to own something of it that would have been made in its homeland (Bavaria, Germany to the Czech Republic). A British buyer, though, would be very interested because is was made in Britain and is so important to the development of British art.

There is a snag there, too. Were I to offer it for sale in Britain, a foreign buyer would have little chance of getting an export permit for it. I did not even think it would get an export permit when I bought it from there, but the British Museum goofed by taking the dealer's misattribution at face vale and by failing to recognize the style. When Ian Stead, a former keeper at the British Museum first saw the photographs of it, he said "When I was at the British Museum, I would never have given it an export permit!" But Ian Stead is one of the few major world-class authorities on early Celtic art and  is very familiar with the continental styles as well as the British.

In the case of coins, things can get very strange, indeed: You would have no problem finding an ancient copper alloy coin in nice condition that was previously unknown for well under a thousand dollars. That is because new types are showing up all the time and there were an awful lot of types of ancient coins. However, one US 1943-S copper Lincoln Wheat Penny sold for a million dollars and others have fetched more than $100,000. It all boils down to supply and demand. Although it sounds like an oxymoron, unique ancient coins are quite common.

If there were as many collectors of early Celtic art as there were of wheat pennies, I could become very rich, indeed. The problem there is there are orders of magnitude more collectors of wheat pennies than examples of early Celtic art! I don' t get to buy Celtic antiquities that often. Fortunately, few collectors and dealers have a library like mine and thus do not recognize good things when they show up, so I get quite a few bargains over the years. Sadly for those others, too, there are a lot of things sold as Celtic that are not Celtic at all. Buy the books before you buy the objects, even though that is going to cost you more than $2,000!

More tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Friday, 27 May 2016

Market share and the past: part 2.

Venus visits the Guggenheim. Digital collage by JH
New York dominates the world's art market, and it really does not matter what kind of art we are talking about. It also does not take a lot work to find out something about the market shares of contemporary versus ancient art: any recent New York auction news will tell you that.

So let's start with the ancient and Sotheby's June 3rd 2015 New York Egyptian, Classical, and Western Asiatic Antiquities auction where the sales almost doubled the pre-sale estimates and totalled $6,389,875 for the 64 lots.

There is something very traditional about even the name of the sale: If you took "Western Asiatic" and placed it before "Egyptian" and "Classical" you would have the basic composition of just about every school book on the ancient western world published in the last few hundred years. We are mostly impressed by our own level of civilization, but we do pay some attention to how we got here. Everything else is just barbarism.

Turning to contemporary art, we have news of Christie's May 10th 2016 sale of post-war and contemporary  art which only achieved a total close to the low pre-sale estimate. Still, that total for the 60 lots was  $318.4 million. All modern art, to some degree, is regional, so it was no great surprise that the star of that show was an untitled painting by the Brooklyn artist Jean-Michel Basquiat showing his graffiti origins. It fetched $57.3 million. What could be more New York than graffiti? Some years ago my wife was talking to a Russian who grew up in the Soviet Union and had recently moved to Canada. During a visit to Toronto, the lack of graffiti there made him shudder. It reminded him too much of the old Soviet Union. "Toronto the Good" defines what should stay and what should go. What remains could better be described as street murals. I still regret, after nearly forty years, that my favourite piece of Calgary graffiti was removed from the 8th street downtown underpass. It said "Free Elmer Fudd". I can't tell you why it seemed so Calgary to me, it just did.

Guennol Lioness
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule, but if you look hard enough, the rules are always still referenced in them. The 5,000 year old Guennol Lioness, (only 8 cm high) found near Baghdad, for a few years, held the record price for a piece of sculpture at auction at $57.2 million at Sotheby's in 2007. But it had previously spent 59 years on display at the Brooklyn Museum of art. The mass of the figure reminds me of the work of Aristide Maillol.

I am overjoyed to be able to include the photo of the Guennol Lioness, not just because it is one of my favourite pieces of ancient sculpture, but because I noticed, for the first time, that Wikimedia Commons has placed this photograph in the Public Domain as the artist (obviously) had died more than a hundred years ago. For many years, photographs of three dimensional ancient art had copyrights claimed by the photographer; an organization such a museum; and even a nation. This made a mockery of the copyright protection for the artist fought so hard for by William Hogarth in the eighteenth century by having even the images of ancient art possessed by the state and its representatives.

More on this series on Monday. Have a contemporary weekend and free Elmer Fudd wherever you might find him.

John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Market share and the past: part 1

Before you start worrying about how much of the pie
you are going to get, you really have to ask yourself:
"Just how big is this pie?"
A few days ago I noticed a petition reacting to the implications for British archaeology in something within the Queen's speech to both houses of parliament at the state opening of parliament:  Stop Destruction Of British Archaeology. Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill.

Just in case anyone did not understand which part of the Queen's speech this referenced, the matter was clarified: "To support the economic recovery, and to create jobs and more apprenticeship, legislation will be introduced to ensure Britain has the infrastructure that businesses need to grow." A typo in the linking page had "and" in front of "business". That part of the speech was 27 words. The speech, itself, was a modest 937 words, so this quote was 2.88% of that particular pie.

Still, we have not got down to the business of the Neighbourhood and Infrastructure Bill, yet. Happily, the Queen's speech is fully clarified in a British Government document, and we find the particular part that is worrying some archaeologists and others: "Planning Conditions: To ensure that pre-commencement planning conditions are only imposed by local planning authorities where they are absolutely necessary." That is 20 words and the entire clarification is 20,435 words excluding the contents and page footers.That represents 0.097% of this much larger pie.

But wait a minute, the only mention of archaeology or archaeologists in this clarification is:  "£3 million of the Cultural Protection Fund is already dedicated to the British Museum's Iraqi Rescue Archaeology Programme, training Iraqi archaeologists in conservation and protection techniques."  So we are really dealing, in the context of the Neighbourhood, and Infrastructure Bill, with a virtual archaeology that might be threatened. I really do not know how, or even if it is possible to determine the value of a virtual amount of 0.097% of something. even if we adopt the viewpoint that, to archaeology, this 0.097% has become an entire pie, we are worrying about a virtual slice of an unspecified size.

We obviously have to take a different approach. Right now, the number of signatures on the petition is at 13,826 and it is reasonable to assume that the British government might be concerned about what percentage of the latest figures for the the total number of UK parliamentary electors this represents. That pie is 44,722,000 voters, so the current petition slice sits at 0.03% of that pie. Although the government has said that they would respond to to 10,000 signatures, it appears that they are not in great hurry to do this. I can certainly understand that such a response would not be considered a high priority. They also have said that 100,000 signatures would result in the matter being considered for debate in parliament. Drat! we are back to virtual values again.

In the U.S., things are done rather differently: When I was doing some voluntary promotional work for the Ancient Coin Collectors Guild, I was mostly concerned about the allowed public responses to Memoranda of Understanding between the U.S. and other nations about import restrictions on ancient coins. Over all, we were getting in excess of 80% support from the public to reject the MoU's in these public responses. There were no government promises of response nor debate; the opposition was just ignored, and all of the MoU's were ratified. I am not saying that the British system is better, mind you. What is really happening is that the British government is waving a larger carrot in front of the horse.

Tomorrow: the "Art Pie" and how big are both the ancient and contemporary slices of that pie?

John's Coydog Community page

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

More on personality types

INFJ Tattoo
photo: Kenneth Freeman (kencf0618)
Here's an interesting site where you can paste text (best 2,000 to 6,000 words) and it will analyse the personality of the writer

Personality Insights, live demo

I pasted examples of my own writing from my blog and included no quotes from any one else (just over 6,000 words)

The analysis was as follows:

"You are inner-directed and skeptical.
You are empathetic: you feel what others feel and are compassionate towards them. You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. And you are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys.
Your choices are driven by a desire for efficiency.
You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you."

Not too bad considering I am an INFJ, but "sceptical" would have far better been replaced with "critical". Where it completely went wrong was " And you are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys." as I pasted excerpts from Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus and The Palaeolithic Artist (which included discussion on Picasso, Rembrandt, Piet Mondrian and other artists)

Curious about this obvious glitch, I clicked on "How did we get this?" and I saw that I was taken to the IBM Watson site that I had criticized in part three of Techism.

Next, I pasted the first three chapters of my novel into the demo and got this:

"You are social, confident and heartfelt. You are confident: you are hard to embarrass and are self-confident most of the time. You are calm under pressure: you handle unexpected events calmly and effectively. And you are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe. Your choices are driven by a desire for efficiency. You are relatively unconcerned with achieving success: you make decisions with little regard for how they show off your talents. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you."

Realizing that this excerpt contained a story told by one of the characters, I tried another sample without such a large quote and got:

"You are unpretentious, boisterous and expressive. You are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys. You are calm-seeking: you prefer activities that are quiet, calm, and safe. And you are intermittent: you have a hard time sticking with difficult tasks for a long period of time. Your choices are driven by a desire for well-being. You consider helping others to guide a large part of what you do: you think it is important to take care of the people around you. You are relatively unconcerned with taking pleasure in life: you prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment."

Next, I thought I should try some more non-fiction and I picked the first three chapters on my study of Coriosolite coins. This is what I got for that sample:

"You are shrewd, skeptical and tranquil. You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are solemn: you are generally serious and do not joke much. And you are calm under pressure: you handle unexpected events calmly and effectively. Your choices are driven by a desire for prestige.You are relatively unconcerned with both taking pleasure in life and tradition. You prefer activities with a purpose greater than just personal enjoyment. And you care more about making your own path than following what others have done."

I have taken two different versions of the Myers-Briggs personality tests at three different times and all of them classified me as an INFJ. I wonder what testing was undertaken on the IBM Watson personality test? Perhaps plucking different personality descriptions from a hat might be more cost-efficient at least.

John's Coydog Community page

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: conclusion

Venus of Brassempouy
Photo: Mathis Patrick
cropped to golden proportion,
stand removed.
When I found  J. T. Thomas' paper, The Cousins of Sarah Baartman, it struck me that it was pertinent both to my series, The Palaeolithic artist, and to my concept of a Jungian archaeology.

Facing a lack of physical evidence about the motives of the prehistoric artist, the archaeologist must inject suppositions and the source of these can be nowhere but the mind of that archaeologist. Archaeology obtains its results purely from physical evidence so we have to ask ourselves to what degree of psychological materialism is the archaeologist working from and how much did that psychology play a part in the adoption of archaeology as an interest? In other words we cannot study the object without also studying the subject (the observer). At the very least, the subject formulates questions about the object.

In recent years, the subject of art has come under scrutiny by archaeologists and the consensus of opinion has separated ancient art from modern art to a very great degree: art for art's sake has been rejected in ancient art, but the only studies that have been done on the subject have involved not the creative processes of the artist, but the reception and function of the art, itself. I maintain that this is a projection of the materialist psychology and that its consensus is partly due to to agreement from minds of the same psychological type and partly due to the fact that the materialist psychology is strongest in extraverted types who are favoured in organizations and who are more forceful in transmitting their wishes than introverted types.

An archaeological organization or group wishing to embrace Jungian concepts would organize itself more along the lines of an impartial think tank and thus select people who, together, displayed a balanced psychological viewpoint. Only by doing this could objectivity be better approached. Communication is very difficult for for people on opposite ends of the introvert/extravert spectrum and the best scientific collaborations are always made by people that are opposite in this spectrum but much closer to the middle as such people can communicate very well and have a great deal of respect and even admiration for each other.

But given the setting up of such an ideal crew, the mind of the prehistoric artist might seem to be unavailable. While this is true for particular, specific and conscious thoughts, it is not true for the underlying psychological components from which these specific thoughts issue in the same way that the thoughts issue from the archaeologist depending on their degree of extraversion/introversion; materialism/spiritualism and so on.

For the last part of these dichotomies, Jung's observation about the unconscious will be considered both valid and more importantly, applicable: As deeper levels of the unconscious are revealed, the first loss is that of language which is replaced by mental pictures. Going deeper, the mental pictures lose their subjectivity and become geometrical arrangements e.g. Jung's quarternity and his extraverted collaborator, Wofgang Pauli's dominant double-triadic symbol (section 3.2)

The mind/brain duality becomes quite useful for such an archaeological crew as I envision because the materialist can come to the same conclusions by looking at the evolutionary development of the brain, itself: The reptilian brain does nothing more than regulate the physical processes, but the human brain evolved from primates and is capable of conscious thought, abstraction and language.Between these two is the limbic brain which appeared in the first mammals and "It can record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings.". Clearly, this is also the part of the brain that governs aesthetics as it is very common for artists to be unable to state exactly why they did a certain thing beyond the statement that it "felt right". So, this leads us back again to the concepts of art and aesthetics as discussed by Jung; the "peak experiences" of Maslow (which can be both aesthetic and religious) and Joyce's definition of "proper art".

John's Coydog Community page

Friday, 20 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: part four

Morph between an Altamira Cave bull and one
drawn by Pablo Picasso, John Hooker
(public domain).

If I had known I was going to use this graphic
more than just once, I might have done a
better job in creating it!

"Picasso and Altamira

We are all familiar with Picasso’s (1881-1973) phrase, after a visit to the Altamira Cave where he admired the rupestral drawings: “after Altamira, everything is decadence.” By saying that, Picasso granted an absolute originality and an artistic essentiality, never to be repeated, to the Palaeolithic men who painted those caves in a very distant time (18,500 – 16,500 b.p.). In a certain way, this phrase fits together with his own artistic agenda, interested in breaking with the pictorial classicism – despite his enormous respect for the masters. This will lead him to “cubism”, one of the movements with greatest impact in western art and one of the engines of the so called “modernist rupture”." Paulo Pereira

VIII. In the Cave of Forgotten Dreams

I wish that I had known of J. D. Thomas' paper while I was writing my series The Palaeolithic artist. Thomas says:
"While it is clear the Venuses are symbols of something, what they are symbols of we will never know: unlike stone tools, symbolism doesn’t preserve very well in the ground, or in the back of the cave, or anywhere else for that matter. Produced by minds as cognitively sophisticated as our own, the Venus figurines are no more interpretativly available to us than Les Demoiselles d’Avignon would be to a Paleolithic person who stumbled across it."
Jung, in Spirit in Man, Art, And Literature: On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry.(Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 15), says:
"Art by its very nature is not science, and science by its very nature is not art; both these spheres of the mind have something in reserve that is peculiar to them and can be explained only in its own terms. Hence when we speak of the relation of psychology to art, we shall treat only of that aspect of art which can be submitted to psychological scrutiny without violating its nature. Whatever the psychologist has to say about art will be confined to the process of artistic creation and has nothing to do with its innermost essence. He can no more explain this than the intellect can describe or even understand the nature of feeling. Indeed, art and science would not exist as separate entities at all if the fundamental difference between them had not long since forced itself on the mind. The fact that artistic, scientific, and religious propensities still slumber peacefully together in the small child, or that with primitives the beginnings of art, science, and religion coalesce in the undifferentiated chaos of the magical mentality, or that no trace of “mind” can be found in the natural instincts of animals— all this does nothing to prove the existence of a unifying principle which alone would justify a reduction of the one to the other. For if we go so far back into the history of the mind that the distinctions between its various fields of activity become altogether invisible, we do not reach an underlying principle of their unity, but merely an earlier, undifferentiated state in which no separate activities yet exist."
Jung's lamentations are about the limitations of understanding art at a level that has not yet been reached by archaeology. Archaeology requires solid evidence and art is only ever discussed with regards to its interpretive meaning of the product: the actual process of artistic creation is completely invisible to archaeology. We can see evidence of this in the way that artistic creations are said, by archaeologists, to be the property of everyone, even though this is usually applied only in nationalistic terms. Artists in the classical period sometimes signed their work; they followed available markets and patrons; they were happy to export their work to wherever it might be purchased. The intentions of ancient artists are regarded as nothing in archaeology, their thoughts are silenced and they have less status than any member of the the public. But is not that archaeologists hate artists, it is that, for the most part, they cannot perceive them at all. Aesthetics is non-material and to a materialist is less than worthless. Of course there are a minority of exceptions: art historian/archaeologists and archaeologists of a more postmodern outlook. Modernism sank into scientism.

In my series on the Palaeolithic artist, I emphasized the experiential: my experiences as an artist and my experiences exploring a cave. But I also dealt with the experiences of other artists and made quite a bit of use of Picasso's statement "After Altamira, all is decadence". There are those who think this phrase apocryphal because he never signed the visitor book at Altamira. This sort of criterion is included in the criticisms within Karl Popper's work: The Poverty of Historicism. Just imagine what it would feel like if everything that you had ever done that had left no written record was denied to have happened by everyone. Yet, what we have done in the past has shaped our present. We can see from my morph, above, that Picasso was familiar with with the Altamira Cave art. We also know that he owned reproductions of Palaeolithic Venus's and that they influenced his work.

The Brothel of Avignon (Le Bordel d’Avignon)
Retitled, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon
(Las chicas de Avignon)
Of all the many thousands of images of women that Thomas could have chosen as an an example in the quote above he chose this one by Picasso. That choice virtually proves the existence of the collective unconscious because it, and the artist who painted it bridges the gap between the Palaeolithic and the modern in art. A Palaeolithic artist would have understood it at once. The combination of different angles of view; the very aspect that brought about cubism, is also revealed with the morph I did where Picasso has changed the angles of parts of the original drawing in his interpretation. In the Altamira Cave, the artists took advantage of swellings of the rock face on which they painted their images to to produce an impression of movement of the figures as one passed them. Only through the medium of morphing can we see Picasso's thought process: it was an experiential process and the morph reveals the underlying movement in the artist's consciousness. But that is not all:

A boar at Altamira

It had to be a boar didn't it? Look at the dark lines
that express shadow, volume and movement against
their absence at the back of the boar's hindquarters.

I have used that trick, too, in my own paintings. So
did Cezanne, so did...
You can see the similarities in the use of lines in Picasso's painting and in the Altamira boar: their intermittent use to show volume and movement and the tapering which further emphasizes movement and graduated shadow. Compare, for example, the line defining the central woman's right breast with the line at the base of the boar's rump. This ability, most recognized in modern art, but which can also be seen, although in smaller detail and subtly, where it is entirely subservient to realism in works by Rembrandt, has created scepticism in many people over the years that these Palaeolithic paintings were ancient at all. Modern analysis and dating methods have confirmed their great antiquity, sometimes dating them even earlier than was previously assumed. So who other than Piccaso could have said "After Altamira, all is decadence". There is even more:

Natural light near the entrance of Moose Mountain Cave

The jagged appearance and fracture lines can be compared
to the same motifs in Picasso's painting.As limestone is
sedimentary, and an ancient seabed, it can fracture along
its strata as well as due to other forces. One such force is
conveniently shown in the screen shot here where, on the left,
a slab has fallen.
In the experience of caves, jagged and fractured rock is often strongly felt. I noticed it in the Moose Mountain Ice Caves having gone far deeper into them than most people have and far further than is possible today because ice has blocked access to the deeper levels. Although the Altamira Cave is of a different sort of rock, the fractures, strata and fallen rock can also be experienced there as this photograph of the Altamira Cave reveals. Incidentally, a geologist friend to whom I was describing my passage through a narrow chimney in the Moose Mountain Cave, commented that no one could even drag him into such a place. He was keenly aware of the ever-changing nature of such caves where rockfalls can block some passages and open others. Geologists, of course, see time greatly speeded up in their studies. Picasso's experiences in more than one cave has left its mark in works partially inspired by cave art. That most often, it is African masks that are cited as his inspiration is probably because such masks were in the present and people just cannot comprehend that the Palaeolithic artists were "modern artists" par excellence, in the  way that profoundly affected Picasso.

All of the images and their captions are taken from my series The Palaeolithic artist. The same themes are woven in and out throughout the series and are best revealed by a complete reading, but parts 117, 18, 19, and 27 will give you the most pertinent parts.

I will wrap this series up on Tuesday (I am taking Canada's Victoria Day off). Have an artistic weekend.

John's Coydog Community page

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: part three

Cole Porter in the 1930's

"In olden days, a glimpse of stocking 
Was looked on as something shocking. 
But now, God knows, 
Anything goes."

Excerpt from "Anything Goes", lyrics by Cole Porter, 1934.

VI. Paleoporn

In this section of J. T. Thomas' paper,  Cousins of Sarah Baartman he has is no hesitation in pointing out just how extreme can be modern people's ability to project the present onto the distant past, and as I read this section, Cole Porter's song "Anything Goes" sprung to mind.

While we can know nothing at all about the subject of this section, we might question why such a topic would even be projected onto the distant past. We are so bombarded by sensation in today's world it takes rather a lot to shock us and and even Cole Porter might draw the line at much of what appears today. But there are another aspects of this, too:

Malcolm Muggeridge said, "Pornography has always, of course, been popular, and enjoyed a wide, if usually under-the-counter, circulation ... Its avowed purpose is to excite sexual desire, which, I should have thought, is unnecessary in the case of the young, inconvenient in the case of the middle aged, and unseemly in the old."  He also said: "Sex is the mysticism of materialism and the only possible religion in a materialistic society". Archaeology is basically materialistic and when the subject of art comes up (as it did in section III of this paper), "Art for art's sake" is considered far too modern to be applicable in the Palaeolithic (and that is also true for archaeological claims about much later periods as well). I have always thought this to be a very short-sighted view: The aesthetic sense is part of our humanity and is not culture-specific. Maslow includes both the aesthetic and the religious experience in his "peak experiences" The problem is that you do not find too many materialistic artists and when archaeology write about art it is almost always about the reception and understanding  of art and not the production of art from the artist's point of view. For a more detailed look at this subject, see my experimental series, The Palaeolithic artist.

Joseph Campbell, in Mythic Worlds, Modern Words: Joseph Campbell on the Art of James Joyce (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell), p. 211-2, speaks about Joyce's ideas about proper and improper art:
"Proper art is art in the service of what is properly the function of art. Improper art is art in the service of something else. And, Joyce says, proper art is static and improper art is kinetic. Static art produces esthetic arrest. What, then, is the opposite of static art? What does Joyce mean by kinetic art? He tells us:
Desire is the feeling which urges us to go to something and loathing is the feeling which urges us to from something and that art is improper which aims at exciting these feelings in us whether by comedy or tragedy. 
"Pornographic art is art that excites desire, It is not proper art. If you see a picture of a dear old lady, for example, and you think, "What a lovely old soul! I'd love to have a cup of tea with her" -- that is pornography. You are exciting desire for a relationship to the object. Or you open a magazine and see a picture of a refrigerator and a beautiful girl standing beside it and smiling, and you think, "I would love to have a refrigerator like that." This is not art, Joyce says, it is pornography. ... Another type of improper art is art critical of society, art in the service of sociology. Such art excites loathing, and Joyce calls it "didactic art." Those who produce such art I call "didactic pornographers." "

So when you see archaeologists claim that ancient art is functional and not "art for art's sake", they are identifying all ancient art as pornographic on an unconscious level. The artist understands art completely differently and as something experiential. Some artists might believe what the archaeologist says and think that the aesthetic sense only existed in relatively modern people, but most, I believe, would not take such claims seriously at all for any period, even the Palaeolithic. Thus, it is no small wonder that the idea of the ancient Venus sculptures were pornography has bubbled up from a few archaeologists unconscious mind.

VII. From Paleoportraits to Performance Art

Here, a number of other theories are given, all from a modern perspective. There is nothing wrong in doing such providing that each would be either labelled as speculative or would contain supportive evidence either from the Palaeolithic time, or with a demonstration that such is particular to all human beings by their very nature, and thus would be true for Palaeolithic people. Without these criteria, accusations of projection could certainly follow.

The final section of the paper will be tomorrow's topic. Although this section is very short, I will have rather a lot to say about it.

John's Coydog Community page

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: part two

Venus of Laussel, cave art, 23rd millenium BC
V. Honest to Goddess

Thomas gets to the crux of the matter when he says:

"Critics of Gimbutas’ archaeomythological approach suggested there was little hard evidence to justify her interpretive leaps about a pervasive Goddess culture. (The oldest European Palaeolithic art is now thought to be a red disk and outlines of human hands in Northern Spain, but thus far no one’s suggested Ice Age sun or hand-worshipping cults). In any case, despite a six decade career devoted to unravelling the mysteries of the past, Gimbutas received somewhat of a critical lambasting and, like many other successful but decidedly old school archaeologists before her, saw some of her less controversial ideas too easily written off, partly because of shelf-date and partly because of mean-spirited professional jealousy." [some spellings changed]

Yet we can delve further into these topics using a Jungian perspective: "hard evidence" signifies an extraverted materialistic viewpoint and its possessors are often drawn more to archaeology than to mythology and even history. These same people only talk about religion and mythology in archaeology by using the term "ritual" as a ritual is a real-world enactment, and not its underlying, non-material, philosophy. Both "goddess" and "worshipping" are open to multiple interpretations, not just in the quoted passage, but in their use by critics of Gimbatus and even by Gimbutas herself. It is too easy to take modern concepts and project them backward. The concept of "sacredness" could well omit deities and worship and be more akin, in Palaeolithic times, to the Polynesian concept "Mana".

Taking the female principle more generally, Jung has this to say:
"In the case of the son, the projection-making factor is identical with the mother-imago, and this is consequently taken to be the real mother. The projection can only be dissolved when the son sees that in the realm of his psyche there is an imago not only of the mother but of the daughter, the sister, the beloved, the heavenly goddess, and the chthonic Baubo. Every mother and every beloved is forced to become the carrier and embodiment of this omnipresent and ageless image, which corresponds to the deepest reality in a man. It belongs to him, this perilous image of Woman; she stands for the loyalty which in the interests of life he must sometimes forgo; she is the much needed compensation for the risks, struggles, sacrifices that all end in disappointment; she is the solace for all the bitterness of life. And, at the same time, she is the great illusionist, the seductress, who draws him into life with her Maya— and not only into life’s reasonable and useful aspects, but into its frightful paradoxes and ambivalences where good and evil, success and ruin, hope and despair, counterbalance one another. Because she is his greatest danger she demands from a man his greatest, and if he has it in him she will receive it.
"This image is “My Lady Soul,” as Spitteler called her. I have suggested instead the term “anima,” as indicating something specific, for which the expression “soul” is too general and too vague."
Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 2): Aion: Researches into the Phenomenology of the Self: paragraphs 24-5
Moving into the more recent mythosphere, Jung also says:

"To the men of antiquity the anima appeared as a goddess or a witch, while for medieval man the goddess was replaced by the Queen of Heaven and Mother Church." 
Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious: paragraph 61

The "multi-breasted" Ephesian Diana
Photo: Classical Numismatic Group, Inc.

Joseph Campbell, in The Power of Myth, p.44  reveals the syncretistic events that led to what Jung had to say about the Queen of Heaven and Mother Church:

"MOYERS: So when the Council of Ephesus met in the year 431 after the death of Christ, and proclaimed Mary to be the Mother of God, it wasn't the first time?

"CAMPBELL: No, in fact that argument had been going on in the Church for some time. But the place where this decision was made, at Ephesus, happened at that time to be the greatest temple city in the Roman Empire of the Goddess Artemis, or Diana. And there is a story that when the council was in session, arguing this point, the people of Ephesus formed picket lines and shouted in praise of Mary, "The Goddess, the Goddess, of course she's the Goddess.""

So why was syncretism not considered by the critics of Gimbutas' theories? There is much more to that than just "mean-spirited professional jealousy." Not only were the people of Ephesus clearly engaging in metaphor. Mary was, in reality, not Diana, Artemis, or the Great Mother Goddess. Even Diana and Artemis are not just Latin and Greek names for the same goddess, but different goddesses that had become syncretized through some shared characteristics. A materialistic mentality rejects metaphor and it also requires proofs linked as if a chain. The mind does not work in such a manner, but the extraverted materialist never looks inward and that sort of content remains unconscious.

Richard J. Bernstein's critical pragmatic fallibilism is a more realistic way that the mind works when it not being repressed by materialistic and linear thinking:
"The philosopher who most carefully and penetratingly distinguishes epistemological skepticism from human fallibilism is Charles Sanders Peirce. Peirce criticizes the picture of scientific reasoning that represents it as a linear movement from premises to conclusions or from individual "facts" to generalizations. In its place he emphasizes the multiple strands and diverse types of evidence, data, hunches, and arguments used to support a scientific hypothesis or theory. Any one of these strands may be weak in itself and insufficient to support the proposed theory, but collectively they provide a stronger warrant for rational belief than any single line of argument -- like a strong cable that is made up of multiple weak strands. This shift in characterizing scientific argumentation is one of the reasons Peirce so emphasized the community of inquirers -- for it is only in and through such a critical community that one can adequately test the collective strength of such multiple argumentation." 
Beyond objectivism and relativism: science, hermeneutics, and praxis, Philadelphia, 1983, p.68.
 Any sort of community of community of enquirers is eliminated through "mean-spirited professional jealousy" because the profession has a tendency to form as a clique, in essence, acting as a single individual where inward-looking is repressed, and this can then manifest itself as a neurosis such as inflation (as I spoke of in part one). The best scientific researchers, however, always follow the cable method that Peirce spoke of. It is just that they then eliminate mention of all of that process in their reports by hiding it within their hypothesizing process. What is left, however, could rarely ever be accomplished without such cable reasoning. I think it was Konrad Lorenz who spoke of students wishing that if only they could come up with such hypotheses (as far as they are stated in the literature), then they, too, could make such great discoveries. Being unconscious, the hidden and most important contents of the true hypothesis then becomes "magic" to them.

I will cover the next two sections in Thomas' paper tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Jungian archaeology and the Palaeolithic Venus: part one

Although C. G. Jung is not referenced in J. T. Thomas' paper the Cousins of Sarah Baartman, the topics it covers give credit to a Jungian approach; perceives a number of Jungian concepts; and would be even more enhanced by direct reference to Jung's work in both the psychology of the modern individual (in this case, the archaeologist and the anthropologist) and also the mythologies of the ancient people that are studied.

Anyone completely unfamiliar with with the work of Jung and the mythologists strongly influenced by his work (most notably Joseph Campbell) might well ask about what we can possibly know about the mythologies of pre-literate peoples. While there are many problems in this sort of study, they are lessened, somewhat, first by the fact that the structure of our modern brains are no different from that of the earliest Cro Magnons; second, because people sharing similar environments and problems often come up with similar solutions, and this does not require any sort of diffusionism for this to happen; third, that beliefs also spread through syncretism, and when this happens, both the transmitted and the received beliefs change somewhat. Even in cases where people are "converted" to a new religion, that conversion does not wholly replace previous cultural elements. If that did happen, there would not be multiple sects within any religion.

To make things easy, I will format this post as a series of notes to Thomas' paper with the section number and title. Sometimes, the  topic will be directly Jungian, but where I speak of scientific topics, the Jungian content will be to question the psychological basis of why such scientific evidence was not considered. Obviously, I will often not be able able to answer this, or even suggest various possibilities, but the reader might speculate on these individually, and according to one's own interests and knowledge.

II. Ancient Races of the Ice Age

Thomas questions the "Fertility Idol" theories, but this presupposes that the idea of presenting a very corpulent female is to create fertility and not to create the conditions whereby fertility naturally occurs. Famine survivors are less fertile and this infertility can last in their children and grandchildren, However, these later generations are smaller and less subject to starvation. Thus this becomes an epigenetic evolutionary survival trait. We can thus see two possibilities for the creation of such figures in the fertility theme: the hope for plenty in the future, or the celebration of plenty in the present. These figurines also do not have to reflect the actual body types of the people who made them, the images can be symbolic and exaggerated. We do know, from cave art, that these people were quite capable of presenting realism, but often did not choose to do so and presented things, also, in symbolic ways. We do the same, today, and intention is the defining factor.

III: A Religion of Magical Homeopathies

In Primitive Mythology, Joseph Campbell (p.296-7) quotes a passage by Leo Frobenius about him, in 1905, asking some Pygmies in the Congo to go hunting for an antelope. One of the Pygmies tells him that certain preparations must first be made (I have abbreviated the quoted passage considerably):
"...One of the men, with an arrow in his drawn bow, stepped over to the cleared ground. In a couple of moments the rays of the sun struck the drawing and at the same instant the following took place at lightning speed: the woman lifted her hands as though reaching for the sun and uttered loudly some unintelligible syllables; the man released his arrow; the woman cried out again; then the men dashed into the forest with their weapons. The woman remained standing a few minutes and then returned to the camp. When she had left, I came out of my hiding and saw what had been drawn on the ground was an antelope, some four feet long: and the arrow was stuck in its neck. ...The hunters caught up with us that afternoon with a beautiful buck. It had been shot with an arrow through the neck.... They caught up with us again only two days later... And he told me simply that he and the others had run back to plaster the hair and blood on their drawing of the antelope, pull out the arrow, and then erase the picture... He pleaded earnestly that I should not let the woman know that he had talked to me about these things."
 Thomas stresses the anthropological fashion of the time in contrasting practices of magic in the past to more modern "civilized behaviour". However, the solution seems to have been to discount the idea of  magical practices, thus doing exactly the same thing again! In actual fact, we continue to use magic. It is just that we do recognize that we are doing that. Every time you read a newspaper or magazine where "Experts say" is given and without any reason given for believing that what they say is indeed true, you are experiencing the modern form of belief in magic manifested as an  inviolate belief in experts even though so-called experts often do not even agree with each other. This also has an unfortunate backlash effect on academia when they buy into that same idea and become psychologically inflated. I have seen the quality of research drastically diminish in areas where such inflation has taken place and where cliques are dominant. They all prop each other up! My term for dismissing the past completely and without any regard for what was actually well-researched is "the conceit of the present". It is rather pathetic when the only way that one can raise oneself up is to dismiss all that had come in an earlier time.

IV. The Raw and the Cooked

While it is true that tends in theory influence the question we ask of anything about the past, we should really try to understand that history (or pre-history, for that matter) is not "what happened" but a dialogue between the present and the past.This was well known to E. H. Carr when he wrote What is History in 1961. Perhaps E. H. Carr is now considered "old fashioned". When we enter a "new present" the "old present" then seems antiquated. The problem with this is that we rarely understand that our present ideas will always seem just as antiquated to future generations. This is why old forgeries are easy to detect. It is not that they are bad, it is just that they will always reflect the age in which they were made. Unfortunately, we are unable to perceive the nature of our own age because we cannot stand back from it. We think that we are now right about everything .

More tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

Monday, 16 May 2016

Techism (and you thought totalitarianism was scary): conclusion

Black Box
by the Argentinian surrealist painter Ruben Cukier
'We call the unconscious "nothing," and yet it is a reality in potentia. The thought we shall think, the deed we shall do, even the fate we shall lament tomorrow, all lie unconscious in our today.'

Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1) Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious [498]
black box. 1 : a usually complicated electronic device whose internal mechanism is usually hidden from or mysterious to the user; broadly : anything that has mysterious or unknown internal functions or mechanisms... Merriam-Webster.
In this series, we have seen how IBM's Watson currently is at the pinnacle of "deep computing", and yet can contain suppositions within its algorithms with little basis in reality and that are hidden from our consciousness; why Marshall McLuhan said 'The medium is the message' (and so we never see the enemy because it is ourselves); and how greed-inspired technology could spell disaster for our heirs.
It is not a pretty picture.

We were surprised when the Berlin wall came down and the Soviet Union was disbanded. We were shocked to the core when the Twin Towers fell, and are stunned each time that our economies melt down. Yet all of these things were fated within our unconscious. We do not think, and the "like button" provides us with an easy valve to propagate yet more memes onto the world. We are fascinated by black boxes; we buy them; we become them. We lose the ability to adapt. What starts as the personal unconscious manifests itself as the collective consciousness: something far more dangerous to our survival. Question everything. "Like" nothing.

John's Coydog Community page