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totem and bedrock

February 13, 2010

[Antony Gormley in The Guardian] Last summer I was in Scotland, in a wood just west of the Pentland Hills, and came upon a robust hut, its thick walls made of large lumps of the local dark igneous stone. It was slate roofed with a single door. Stepping in, down, and getting used to the low light entering from two unglazed windows from each gable end, I recognised that the floor was uneven and, in the half light, that I was actually standing on bedrock. This surface revealed the surface of our earth, unadorned, bruised, cracked, wedged open by roots, smoothed by ice, pitted by water, laid by sedimentation. This revealing of the underneath of things, the hidden support that lies beneath trees, homes, buildings, was both shocking and engaging. Here was a useless building in which we could encounter our dependency: a brilliant work by Andy Goldsworthy.

What I am asking for is a reassessment of what art is and how it works. I am questioning the linear trajectory of art history as part of western development, recognising that all art exists in the sense of a continuous present. We are now in a position to acknowledge that those stages in an evolutionary past that would, in previous times, have been thought of as primitive, are coexisting in this era and are not superseded – and actually the use of the fetish and the totem as reference points for a model of art are enormously useful. (read)

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