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The Oldest Art

Recently at The Toby we hosted a talk by an expert on beads named Lois Sherr Dubin. Referencing the Native American art, Nigerian art, and fashion art on display at IMA right now, she led us on a mind-bending trip through time and place, reflecting on these diminutive glass, ceramic or bone doo-dads that humans have endowed with the power to signify social status, connect to the spirits, and more. The earliest known beads, made from seashells, date back to 100,000 BC.

What about the earliest-known drawings? They exist in a cave in France, and are believed to be more than 30,000 years old. The newest film by documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog (of Grizzly Man fame) is a journey into the Chauvet Cave, and a reflection on the profound urge to represent reality—with pigment on a surface.

image courtesy IFC films.

Egged on by Herzog’s rapturous narration, the film’s camera washes over the cave paintings with lavish attention. Beasts of all sizes are depicted. Charcoal brush strokes capture the grace and strength of a horse in motion. Footprints hint at rites of passage and perilous journeys. The film is immersive; the drawings are ghostly, and yet so there. (Read reviews of the film here).

Cave of Forgotten Dreams premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. I saw it at the 2011 South by Southwest film festival and fell in love.

You can see it here at the Indianapolis Museum of Art any of four times between Christmas and New Years. Use it as an excuse to get out of the house and get a fat dose of profundity.

Filed under: Film, Public Programs, The Toby

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