Saturday, July 16, 2005
Wounded Bison and Man
How early is the symbol programmed into a child?
One wishes to draw what is there. One wishes to learn how to see.
Often I thought I wanted to see like a child again, without learned symbols to cloud my vision - Zen mind, beginner's mind, I'd repeat to myself - yet, even a child draws in symbols, so how can that be the proper direction?
How early does the symbol get embedded into the brain? Do we learn it as children? Are we being taught somehow, subreptitiously, from a line that goes back to ancient cave painters, or were ancient cave painters really artistic children and what we observe in children is simply that in a way (biologists, forgive me the abuse) "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"? Does the artistic development of the individual recapitulate the artistic development of the species?...
Maybe all this is well known. Can any anthropologist in the room tell me this: If I draw the stick figure of a man, how many cultures will recognize it? Is it universal, or specific? Is it inscribed in our ancestral genes or is in an artifact of a few civilizations?