Rock art around the world – origins of visual language


‘An exhibition like a time machine: it sweeps us across 40,000 years of human intellectual adventure. Rock art is a phenomenon belonging to illiterate populations which stopped once those who practice it acquired some written form of communication. Before the appearance of writing however, rock art was by far the most widespread method by which human beings recorded historical events. So far, over twenty million prehistoric figures in about 100,000 sites in 120 countries of the five continents have been discovered. In the beginning, during the ancient stone age, human beings had common interests, stylistic aptitudes, associations of ideas and shared the same artistic trends. Subsequently, these inclinations took separate roads and different regions and provinces began to reflect cultural, linguistic and ethnic differences until, at the beginning of the age of food production, in the Neolithic period, that confusion of different identities came into being which since the start of this century has become more and more accentuated. The capacity for abstraction, synthesis and idealization or mythicizing are features of the human species. This capacity is reflected in man’s artistic production. The generic word ART is made up of numerous different forms – iconography, poetry, music and song, diction, dancing and mime. This immense creative legacy is inside us; what we create today is the consequence. Archaeology brings to light only that which has stood the test of time and, in this context, rock art represents the major documentation still in existence today. The intellectual needs and abilities of our ancestors have given rise to the development of ideologies, to the moulding of faiths, to the production of art, to communication through articulated language, to the creation of many different traditions, habits, fashions and values which make up culture. Ancient art forms communicate ideas, beliefs, elements of social life, of the men and women who produced them; they inform us of the tastes, the sense of harmony, the aesthetic and ethical needs of these peoples. They have become the means whereby we can judge, though subjectively, individuals, societies and cultures. The absolute need for artistic creativeness has been present in human beings ever since the appearance on this planet of our direct ancestor, the Homo-Sapiens Sapiens who was distinguished by his ability to produce and/or receive graphic messages. In Africa examples of artistic creativeness go back over 40,000 years and in Europe 35,000. In Asia, the oldest art forms date back 25,000 years, in Australia 22,000, in the Americas (Brazil) 17,000. These dates are those currently documented but no doubt future archaeological discoveries will shed light even further back on history. From what has been said, it is evident that the origins and divulgation of art forms are tied to the origins and movement of Homo Sapiens. Whenever he goes he takes with him his traditions and knowledge, among which his ability and need to create art. When artistic production began, the human species, in the various forms which preceded the Homo Sapiens, was already over two million years old. During this enormous length of time the first attempts were made to engrave numeric markings and produce instruments of harmonic and symmetric shape. Then art exploded onto the scene. To go back in time through the history of man, to rediscover and analyse his artistic production and learn from it is a mean of enriching our own cultural heritage. It means rediscovering pieces of iconography and graphics which are still ours, which still belong to our culture and which we reinvent and rediscover every day because they are inside us. When we look at these ancient markings it is as if they had been hiding inside us. The models are always present. They are the thread which holds together yesterday, today and tomorrow. Our first reaction is to say, “I invented these images ten thousand years ago”. They have a great impact on our being and on the consciousness of what we really and truly are: to contemplate these art forms is to rediscover a magnificent adventure in which we all have been protagonists for many thousand of years. Every individual and every society acquire a new dimension through their acquaintance with the cultural mould which produced them to be what they are. In this sense, the exhibition is an attempt to look behind our backs, to rediscover and reinterpret our roots within a great happening like Meeting 1986: 40,000 years of human intellectual adventure… an exhibition like a time machine.’


23 Agosto 1986 - 30 Agosto 1986




Agorà C1 (Area CdO)
Exhibitions Meeting Exhibitions