A Thin Red Line –
The Presence of Prehistoric Pictoriality

 

Whitney Davis
Professor of History and Theory of Ancient and Modern Art
UC Berkeley, and Visiting Professor, University of York

6.00 pm  Tuesday 14 October
The University of Queensland Art Museum
Free. All welcome.

  • Listen to the lecture here

This lecture addresses one of the most well-established and influential ideas about prehistoric (and specifically Paleolithic) pictorial representations, namely, the idea that their original makers and beholders did not take them and use them as pictures ‘in our sense’ but instead considered them to be ‘the things themselves’, that is, the objects depicted, such as bison and other animals. But how do we reconcile this idea with the visible activity of mark-making and of ‘painterliness’ – of making visible the process of making the picture? What is the nature of this pictorial ‘illusion’? The lecture evaluates past and recent discussions of this matter using the example of the earliest widely accepted examples of prehistoric depiction, drawn from the Aurignacian tradition in southwestern Europe and specifically from the cave of Chauvet (c. 32,000 BCE).

Whitney Davis is Pardee Professor of History and Theory of Ancient and Modern Art at the University of California at Berkeley and Visiting Professor of Art History at the University of York. He is the author of seven books and nearly one hundred articles on aspects of prehistoric, ancient, and modern arts, the history and theory of art history and visual culture, and the history and theory of sexuality. His most recent book, A General Theory of Visual Culture, won the monograph prize of the American Society for Aesthetics in 2012. Recent articles include an essay on prehistoric rock art and climate change, on eighteenth-century British portraiture, and on Ernst Cassirer’s dispute with Martin Heidegger about the existential status of original space. He is currently completing two books, Visuality and Virtuality: Images and Pictures from Ancient Egypt to New Media and Space, Time, and Depiction: Archaeologies of the Standpoint.


Supported by the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, The University of Queensland.

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Lion pair from the cave of Chauvet, France, c. 32,000 BCE
Reproduced courtesy of Jean Clottes